In separate rulings announced on Thursday, the ECHR ordered Baku to pay the families of Karen Petrosian and Mamikon Khojoyan a total of 80,000 euros ($92,000) in damages.
Petrosian, a 33-year-old villager from Tavush province bordering Azerbaijan, crossed the frontier for unclear reasons in August 2014. He was first spotted by residents of an Azerbaijani border village and then detained by the Azerbaijani military. Petrosian was accused of being part of an Armenian “sabotage group” that tried to infiltrate Azerbaijan.
Petrosian was pronounced dead the following day. Baku claimed that he died of “acute heart failure.”
The Armenian authorities rejected the claim, saying that Petrosian was murdered or beaten to death. The United States and France expressed serious concern at the man’s suspicious death and called on Baku to conduct an objective investigation.
The 77-year-old Khojoyan, who lived in another Tavush village, was detained in a nearby Azerbaijani settlement in January 2014. Baku claimed that he was an armed guide of an Armenian sabotage group that tried to carry out a cross-border incursion. Yerevan laughed off the claim, saying that the elderly man strayed into Azerbaijani territory by accident.
Khojoyan was freed and repatriated in March 2014. He died more than two months later. Armenian doctors said he suffered serious injuries during his captivity.
The ECHR ruled that in both cases Azerbaijan violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee people’s right to life and prohibit torture. It said that Petrosian and Khojoyan were subjected to violence in Azerbaijani custody.
The Azerbaijani government did not immediately react to the rulings. It can appeal against them in the ECHR Grand Chamber.
In January 2020, the Strasbourg-based court handed down a similar verdict on an appeal lodged by the parents of Manvel Saribekian, a 20-year-old resident of another Armenian border village who was detained Azerbaijan in September 2010.
Azerbaijani authorities paraded Saribekian on national television, saying that he was trained by an Armenian commando unit and sent to Azerbaijan to carry out terrorist attacks. Saribekian’s family strongly denied the allegations, insisting that he accidentally crossed the border while grazing cattle.
Saribekian was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center in October 2010. Azerbaijani officials claimed that he committed suicide.
The young man’s body underwent a forensic examination after being handed over to Armenia. Law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan concluded that he was tortured to death.