The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Azerbaijan to provide information about the whereabouts and condition of an Armenian man who was detained in its Nakhichevan exclave earlier this month.
Authorities in Nakhichevan reported the arrest of the 30-year-old man, Narek Sardarian, on July 15 one week after he went missing while grazing cattle in a border village in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik region.
Sardarian was shown on local television saying that he fled Armenia and wants to live in Azerbaijan or a third country. His family believes that he crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border by accident and was forced by the Azerbaijani security services to give a different reason for entering Nakhichevan.
A lawyer representing the family, Artak Zeynalian, asked the ECHR last week to help ensure that Sardarian is safe and sound and can communicate with his wife, sister and parents.
The Strasbourg-based court agreed to issue such an injunction on Thursday. According to Zeynalian, it specifically ordered the Azerbaijani authorities to reveal the place and conditions of Sardarian’s detention and report whether he is facing any criminal charges, has access to a lawyer and can receive or send letters.
Baku must provide this and other information before the end of this month, Zeynalian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, discussed Sardarian’s disappearance at a July 14 meeting with Claire Meytraud, the head of the Yerevan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It is not clear whether officials from the ICRC office in Baku have since been allowed to visit Sardarian.
Zeynalian, who served as Armenia’s justice minister from 2018-2019, suggested that the ECHR took into account the tragic fate of other Armenian civilians who had strayed into Azerbaijani territory in similar circumstances.
In September 2010, a 20-year-old resident of a border village in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province, Manvel Saribekian, crossed into Azerbaijan and was immediately accused by Baku of planning to carry out terrorist attacks.
Saribekian was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center one month later. Azerbaijani officials claimed that he committed suicide. But in a January 2020 ruling, the ECHR backed Armenian forensic experts’ conclusion that young man was tortured to death.
Another Armenian villager, Karen Petrosian, was pronounced dead in August 2014 one day after being detained in an Azerbaijani village across the border. The Azerbaijani military claimed that he died of “acute heart failure.” The Armenian authorities believe, however, that Petrosian was murdered or beaten to death.
Sardarian is not the only Armenian national currently held in an Azerbaijani prison. Karen Ghazarian, a resident of the Tavush province, was captured in July 2018.
In February 2019, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Ghazarian to 20 years in prison on charges of plotting terrorist attacks and “sabotage” in Azerbaijan. Yerevan condemned the ruling and demanded Ghazarian’s immediate release.
No Azerbaijani villagers are known to have died in Armenian captivity. One of them entered Armenia from Azerbaijan’s Gedabey district as recently as on June 12 and remains in detention.