Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights issues statement on the release of POWs represented before the ECHR
WASHINGTON, DC—The Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) has announced the release of three prisoners of war (POWs) it represents before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in collaboration with the International & Comparative Law Center (ICLC). On May 4, 2021, three POWs, including one civilian, were repatriated to Yerevan, Armenia with the support and assistance of the Commander of the Russian Peacekeeping Mission, General Rustam Muradov. The release of Robert Vardanyan (19), Samvel Shukhyan (22) and civilian Seyran Tamrazyan (46) represents progress in response to the advocacy and mediation in support of their legal cases. Currently, Vardanyan and Tamrazyan are hospitalized in critical condition, while Shukhyan is recovering at home.
The ALC (based in Washington DC) and the ICLC (based in Yerevan, Armenia) have thus far filed nearly 100 cases with the ECHR to ensure both the safety and wellbeing of the POWs held captive and to demand their immediate release. The ALC and ICLC, which partnered in January 2021 to represent identified Armenian Prisoners of War (POWs) unlawfully held captive by Azerbaijan, have continued to be leaders in the movement to obtain the release of Armenian POWs.
To date, the ECHR has reviewed extensive documentation, videos and photographs to verify the captivity for each individual and in certain cases, granted requests for “interim measures” to protect the health and safety of the individual POWs. The ALC and ICLC continue to document and collect information provided by families of captives as well as review footage to track possible sightings of POWs in captivity. Azerbaijan’s seizure of Armenian POWs, including innocent civilians and combatants, both during and after hostilities, and the pattern of abuse, torture, and in some cases, murder, violate the laws of warfare according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
ALC’s advocacy on behalf of Armenian POWs includes meeting with international organizations and government representatives to increase pressure on Azerbaijan. “We encourage the United States and European governments, along with international mediating organizations and entities, to maintain pressure on Azerbaijan to release all Armenian POWs in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and the terms of the November 2020 trilateral statement. However, ALC is deeply concerned by the misguided efforts to appease Aliyev by following the distorted narrative that unlawfully held Armenian POWs are mere detainees. This language serves only to embolden a belligerent dictator and puts innocent lives at risk,” stated ALC chairperson Kenneth Hachikian.
The ALC in partnership with ICLC will continue to pursue the release of all unlawfully held Armenian POWs and will further pursue justice for the 19 Armenian POWs who were unlawfully taken hostage by Azerbaijan alive and have died in captivity. “Azerbaijan will be held accountable for the deaths of Armenians unlawfully held in captivity both during the Artsakh war and after the cessation of hostilities,” stated Hachikian.
Based in Washington DC, ALC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with the mission to pursue justice for human rights violations emanating from the Armenian Genocide including the regional security of the Armenia and Artsakh Republics.
As the greater Armenian nation mourns the tragic deaths of 19 Armenians identified as prisoners of war and unlawfully held captive by Azerbaijan, the ALC would like to share their names and brief backgrounds, including circumstances of their deaths. Readers are advised that the following information may be graphic.
Serjik Vardanyan (73) and Ella Vardanyan (69), civilians from Hadrut, Artsakh
Serjik was disabled with an amputated leg. They were taken captive in their own home, tortured and murdered in Hadrut.
Benik Hakobyan (74) and Elena Hakobyan, civilians from Hadrut, Artsakh
They were neighbors with Serjik and Ella Vardanyan. Benik, along with Yuri Adamyan, was captured by Azerbaijani soldiers in his home. Their hands were tied behind their backs, heads covered with an Armenian flag, and shot dead in the center of Hadrut by Azerbaijani soldiers. The murder was recorded and posted on the internet. Elena was found murdered near her home.
Misha Melkumyan (84), civilian from Hadrut, Artsakh
The International Committee for the Red Cross confirmed that he was alive in captivity, but later died on October 30, 2020. Forensic evidence revealed that he was tortured and murdered.
Vardges Ghazaryan (20), serviceman
Eyewitness testimony verified that he was captured on November 7, 2020 with no injuries. His body was returned with blunt wounds and a deformation to his head.
Narek Babayan (25), serviceman
Narek was captured by Azerbaijani soldiers on October 16, 2020. The Azerbaijani soldiers called Narek’s family using his mobile phone and informed them that they had beheaded him. Hours later, a photo of Narek with his throat cut was posted on his personal Instagram account.
Yuri Adamyan (25), volunteer from Hadrut, Artsakh
Yuri was captured by Azerbaijani soldiers in Hadrut. He and Benik Hakobyan were covered with an Armenian flag and shot dead in the center of Hadrut. The murder was recorded and posted on the internet.
Artur Manvelyan (41), volunteer
Artur was wounded in Mekhkavan, Artsakh. He was shot at close range and his murder was recorded and posted on the Internet by an Azerbaijani soldier.
Eduard Shahgeldyan (79), civilian from Avetaranots village, Askeran, Artsakh
Eduard and his wife Arega were taken prisoner by Azerbaijani soldiers on October 27, 2020, transferred to Baku, Azerbaijan and kept separate and incommunicado from each other. Arega was released and repatriated to Armenia on December 9, 2020. Her husband’s body was supposed to have been released and repatriated as well, however, a much younger captive’s corpse was repatriated on the flight instead. Azerbaijan released Eduard’s corpse on December 28, 2020, with signs of torture and abuse consistent with Arega’s testimony.
Arsen Gharakhanyan, civilian
Arsen was captured in his home on October 13, 2020, with his father. Verification of captivity surfaced only when his father was repatriated on December 14, 2020, and because his father had seen him in prison in Baku, Azerbaijan. Videos of his captivity emerged on January 6, 2021, only to be followed by the release of his corpse two weeks later with documented signs of physical torture.
Gagik Mkrtchyan (19), serviceman
Gagik was captured in mid-October 2020. In December, video of his captivity surfaced. Recently, Gagik’s corpse with evidence of torture was found and identity verified with DNA test results and tattoos.
Erik Mkhitaryan (18), serviceman
Erik’s family lost contact with him after October 8, 2020. On November 24, 2020, a video surfaced on the internet indicating that Erik was alive and held captive in Azerbaijan. His corpse was recently released and identity confirmed by DNA testing.
Arayik Poghosyan (20), serviceman
Arayik’s family lost touch with him in October 2020. His captivity was verified by eyewitness soldiers and two civilian POWs who were repatriated. Months later his corpse was released by Azerbaijan.
Genadi Petrosyan (69), civilian
Genadi lived alone in the village of Madatashen, Artsakh. He chose to remain in his home when Azerbaijani forces were near. When a neighbor tried to drive him away, he got out of the vehicle and walked back home. On October 28, 2020, Genadi called the village mayor to report that Azerbaijani forces were in the village. After weeks of silence, a video emerged on the internet depicting an Azerbaijani soldier beheading Genadi while he was alive.
Yurik Asryan (80), civilian from Azokh village, Hadrut, Artsakh
Yurik remained in his village when Azerbaijani soldiers were near. A video emerged depicting Yurik being beheaded by an Azerbaijani soldier while alive. His body was found in January 2021.
Nina Davtyan (80), civilian from Vardashat, Hadrut, Artsakh
Nina and her husband David remained in their home and were killed by Azerbaijani soldiers. Nina’s corpse was found with gunshot wounds to her chest and hand and her skull crushed.
Misha Movsisyan, civilian, physically disabled, Hadrut, Artsakh
Misha and his mother were unable to leave their home because of his severe disabilities when the Azerbaijani forces closed in. They were both killed in their homes.
Alvard Tovmasyan (58), civilian, mentally disabled, from Karintag village, near Shushi, Artsakh
According to forensic evidence, her death was a result of blunt craniocerebral injury and thus, her feet, hands, left ear and the tip of her tongue were cut likely while alive.
May God illuminate and have mercy on their souls.