Commissioner for Human Rights  Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights concludes her visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan with a focus on the human rights situation of people affected by the conflict in and around the Karabakh region

  • 27.10.2023
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Strasbourg, 26 October 2023 – “Human rights violations have again marked the last chapter of the long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in and around the Karabakh region. Full respect for human rights of all and strict adherence to relevant international standards should be now placed at the centre of the path towards reconciliation and durable peace between the two countries”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, at the end of her visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region, which took place from 16 to 23 October 2023.

The visit was prompted by the mass displacement of over 100’600 Karabakh Armenians who fled to Armenia in only a few days at the end of September. It followed Azerbaijan’s military action on 19 and 20 September, its subsequent full control over the region and the prolonged disruption in the movement of people and access to essential goods, services and energy supplies experienced by Karabakh Armenians as a result of a nine-month blocking of the road along the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan. “They found themselves abandoned, without any reliable security or protection guarantees by any party. For them, leaving home was the only option available”, said the Commissioner.

During the visit to Armenia, the Commissioner had meetings with the Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, the Deputy Prime Minister, Tigran Khachatryan, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Narek Mkrtchyan, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Paruyr Hovhannisyan, the Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, Vache Terteryan, the Head of the Migration and Citizenship Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Armen Ghazaryan, and the President of the Investigative Committee, Argishti Kyaramyan. The Commissioner also met with the Human Rights Defender of Armenia, Anahit Manasyan. She visited shelters for displaced persons in the cities of Aghavnadzor and Tsaghkadzor in the Kotayk province, where she spoke with Karabakh Armenians, including families, older persons, people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons. The Commissioner had also meetings with representatives of international organisations and civil society.

The Commissioner welcomed again the efforts made by the Armenian authorities to assist all those in need in the immediate term with the support of UNHCR, other UN agencies and civil society. She calls on Council of Europe member states to provide full support to ensure the sustainability of the necessary assistance to respond to the needs of the persons recently displaced to Armenia, especially in relation to their medium and long-term situation. Particular attention in this respect needs to be paid to the needs of vulnerable groups.

During the visit to Azerbaijan, the Commissioner had meetings with the Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan – Head of the Department of Foreign Policy Affairs of the Presidential Administration, Hikmat Hajiyev, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yalchin Rafiyev and the Deputy Head of Working Group of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons Eldar Samadov. The Commissioner also met with the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Sabina Aliyeva.

The Azerbaijani authorities informed the Commissioner of the measures taken by the State for the reintegration of the Karabakh region and the people living there. The Commissioner stressed that Azerbaijan must guarantee the human rights of the ethnic Armenians remaining in the region and of those who have left for Armenia, including the right to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

The Commissioner also visited the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. This was the first time in decades that a human rights mission of this kind was able to visit the region, although its scope was limited due to security concerns linked to the presence of mines. The Commissioner travelled to Fuzuli, Shusha-(Shushi), Malibayli village, Khankendi-(Stepanakert), Khojaly and Aghdam. She was shocked to see that the city of Khankendi was almost completely empty following the departure of its population in September. She was informed that only a very few ethnic Armenians who lived in the region have remained. She spoke with some of the people present in Khankendi, including at the shelter opened to receive the most vulnerable among those who have stayed. In Fuzuli and Aghdam in particular, the Commissioner saw the destructed towns and villages which appeared to have remained for decades in ruins. In Fuzuli, the Commissioner visited a recently constructed residential area to which some of the Azerbaijanis displaced decades ago have returned. In several places, she visited religious and burial sites and in Aghdam, she met with the Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action, Samir Poladov and saw areas where demining works are underway. During her travel to the Karabakh region, she also met with local representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population and the State Migration Service as well as with officials of the Special Representations of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Shusha district and in other territories of the Karabakh region.

During the visit to Azerbaijan, the Commissioner met with displaced persons, landmine victims, witnesses and survivors of past human rights violations and their families, as well as family members of missing persons. The Commissioner and members of her team also had meetings with representatives of international organisations and civil society.

Throughout the visit to both countries, the Commissioner heard reports of serious human rights violations in relation to the long-standing conflict and could witness the deep suffering of the civilian populations affected by the different outbreaks of hostilities throughout the years. The Commissioner discussed with her official interlocutors the humanitarian and human rights consequences of the conflict in and around the Karabakh region, including as a result of the 2020 outbreak of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the most recent events which followed the blocking of the Lachin corridor and Azerbaijan’s military operation. In particular, she stressed again the importance of ensuring the human rights of all displaced persons, including their right to return in dignity and safety; the right to be protected against the danger of mines and explosive remnants of war; the human rights of captives to receive protection; the right to know the fate and whereabout of missing persons; the need for independent and effective investigations into serious human rights violations reported in relation to the conflict; and the importance of providing adequate and effective reparation to the victims. She stressed that now more than ever, all parties should take resolute action to prevent and combat hate speech and support initiative that promote co-existence and reconciliation.

The Commissioner’s observations and recommendations are forthcoming.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights' Press ReleasePRESS RELEASECommissioner for Human Rights  Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights concludes her visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan with a focus on the human rights situation of people affected by the conflict in and around the Karabakh region


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