ALC submission to UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

The International and Comparative Law Center of Armenia, under the auspices of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights, formally submitted eight cases to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on March 5, 2024.

At the forefront of the quest for justice and accountability, the International and Comparative Law Center of Armenia has undertaken a formidable task at the behest of the families of enforced or involuntary disappeared persons, pursuing eight cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances, each poignant in its representation of the suffering and anguish endured by the people of Artsakh. The predominant victims in these cases are servicemen, serving as stark symbols of Azerbaijan’s relentless aggression and its policy aimed at the obliteration of the Armenian populace.

Tasked with a solemn mandate, the U.N. Working Group, a specialized entity established under the aegis of the United Nations Human Rights Council, stands as a beacon of hope in the global pursuit of truth and justice. Its purview encompasses the meticulous investigation of disappearances, spanning continents and cultures, with an unwavering commitment to unraveling the mysteries surrounding missing persons and holding perpetrators accountable.

Operating in tandem with governments, bereaved families and a constellation of stakeholders, the Working Group engages in a multifaceted approach, leveraging inquiry, advocacy and collaboration to advance its objectives. Through a relentless pursuit of information, coupled with rigorous scrutiny and meticulous analysis, the Working Group endeavors to shed light on the shadows of uncertainty that cloak the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared. Moreover, its advocacy efforts serve as a clarion call for global solidarity, amplifying the voices of the marginalized and advocating for the implementation of robust measures to combat impunity and secure justice for victims and their families. In the face of adversity, the Working Group remains steadfast in its pursuit of truth and resolute in its commitment to upholding the fundamental principles of human rights and dignity. 

On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan initiated a military offensive against Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, which persisted until the signing of a ceasefire agreement on November 9, 2020. Facilitated by the President of the Russian Federation, the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan, this trilateral statement stipulated a cessation of hostilities, mandating both Azerbaijan and Armenia to maintain their positions as of the ceasefire’s inception, effective midnight on November 10, 2020.

Despite the agreement, Azerbaijan continued to violate the ceasefire, culminating in the unlawful blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on December 12, 2022. This blockade resulted in dire humanitarian consequences for the approximately 120,000 residents of Artsakh. Basic necessities such as food, medication and medical care were severely lacking, leading to multiple cases of miscarriages, deaths due to lack of medical attention and even starvation.

International condemnation of Azerbaijan’s actions ensued, with various states and human rights organizations, including the International Court of Justice, urging for the immediate reopening of the corridor and the provision of humanitarian aid to the affected population. Despite these appeals, Azerbaijan persisted in its blockade until September 19, 2023, when the final remnants of the tranquility of Artsakh were shattered by the thunderous echoes of artillery fire as Azerbaijan launched a military offensive, intent on asserting dominance over Artsakh and displacing its indigenous population. This brazen act of aggression unfolded against the backdrop of a turbulent year, wherein the resilient inhabitants of Artsakh found themselves ensnared in a maelstrom of adversity.

For nine agonizing months, Artsakh languished under a suffocating siege, its people besieged by deprivation and uncertainty. The blockade, a cruel manifestation of geopolitical strife, choked the region’s lifelines, depriving its populace of essential supplies and impeding the flow of humanitarian aid. The ensuing two-day conflict further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, leaving the community reeling from the trauma of violence and displacement.

In the wake of these tumultuous events, the exodus began – a mass migration of Armenians fleeing the ravages of war, seeking sanctuary and solace in the embrace of Armenia. The journey was fraught with peril, as families navigated treacherous terrain and confronted the specter of uncertainty looming over their futures. Now, an estimated 100,000 displaced individuals from Artsakh find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, grappling with the wrenching upheaval of displacement and the daunting task of rebuilding shattered lives.

Their stories, etched with sorrow and resilience, serve as a poignant reminder of the human cost of conflict. Behind the statistics and headlines lie the faces of ordinary men, women and children, whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the tumult of war. As the international community grapples with the ramifications of this crisis, it is incumbent upon us to heed their plight, extending a hand of compassion and solidarity to those who have borne the brunt of violence and upheaval.

In each of the submitted cases, the individuals affected were either conscripted or voluntary servicemen, emblematic of the inherent risks faced by those serving in conflict zones. Following the incidents, search and rescue operations were promptly initiated. Regrettably, the recovered remains were not identifiable as those of the missing individuals, exacerbating the anguish of their families.

Eyewitnesses provide vivid accounts of the severe predicaments endured by various servicemen caught in the tumultuous throes of conflict. Among them, one serviceman suffered incapacitating injuries, rendering him immobile, while his fellow serviceman was forcibly taken as a prisoner of war and subsequently repatriated, leaving his comrade’s fate shrouded in uncertainty.

Similarly, other accounts depict the harrowing realities faced by servicemen who found themselves in precarious circumstances amidst the chaos of battle. One such serviceman, refusing medical assistance in a selfless act of prioritizing the needs of others, remained in a perilous situation until his eventual disappearance in the village where he was stationed.

Furthermore, there are reports of servicemen positioned near a specific village who experienced abrupt and severed communication with their families, intensifying the anguish of their loved ones left with unanswered questions and mounting concerns.

The plight of another serviceman, who expressed his intention to return to his post before mysteriously disappearing, mirrors the pervasive uncertainty faced by many in the region. In a tragic turn of events, witnesses also observed servicemen being escorted away by Azerbaijani forces.

The Center remains steadfast in its commitment to meticulously monitor and diligently pursue resolution for each individual case under its purview. Its unwavering dedication extends beyond the mere initiation of inquiries, transcending into a sustained engagement with the families affected by these tragic circumstances.

Through ongoing correspondence and regular communication, the Center endeavors to foster a sense of solidarity and support among the families, providing them with a vital lifeline of information and updates regarding the progress of their respective cases. Moreover, it serves as a beacon of hope in the face of uncertainty, offering solace and reassurance amidst the tumult of unresolved grievances.

Armenian Legal Center for Justice & Human Rights
Based in Washington DC, the Armenian Legal Center for Justice & Human Rights 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.

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