Armenian political prisoner Ruben Vardanyan initiates hunger strike, family releases statement

YEREVAN—Following the family’s urgent appeal to the international community regarding his hunger strike, Ruben Vardanyan was allowed to call his family for the first time after more than two weeks of incommunicado detention. They reported the following.

During the call, he mentioned that over this time he has been in full isolation, without access to even any reading materials. As far as we know, he only has his blood pressure measured and nothing else, which makes us even more concerned about his deteriorating health condition. At the end of the call, he said, “I am now more convinced than ever before that values and principles are more important than even life itself.”

We demand that Azerbaijan allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him immediately to secure independent evidence of his well-being and to ensure he is provided all proper medical attention during his hunger strike.

In addition, we reiterate Vardanyan’s demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Below is the family’s initial appeal released on April 19, 2024.

“I am now more convinced than ever before that values and principles are more important than even life itself.”

The family of illegally detained philanthropist, Ruben Vardanyan, announced that he entered into a hunger strike to demand the immediate and unconditional release of himself and the other Armenian prisoners illegally held in Baku.

The hunger strike began on April 5, 2024, following repeated requests by Vardanyan and counsel to provide a fair and transparent trial in a timely manner in line with international legal standards. Tellingly, since his hunger strike began, his family’s phone calls with him have been cut off, in clear violation of all international norms. The original trial slated for January was extended without cause to May.

Last September, armed forces of the government of Azerbaijan invaded the region of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering the exodus of the 120,000 inhabitants of the region. During the plight of the refugees, Vardanyan and seven other former officials were arrested and now face spurious politically motivated charges. They are all political prisoners.

“I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of my father,” said David

Vardanyan, one of Vardanyan’s sons. “For nearly 200 days, my family has not seen my father. We have had absolutely no contact with him since he launched his hunger strike on April 5th.”

Vardanyan’s hunger strike tragically coincides with the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which will occur on April 24, demonstrating how Armenians continue to be targets of ethnic cleansing and are still targeted for persecution around the world.

Vardanyan is a loving husband and a father of four. He is also an influential Armenian business leader, social entrepreneur and philanthropist. Together with his partners from around the world, he has driven more than $1.5 billion toward advancing economic development, addressing humanitarian challenges and supporting global education initiatives.

Former Artsakh State Minister and political prisoner Ruben Vardanyan (Photo: Vahagn Khachatrian)

A former state minister of the Republic of Artsakh from November 2022-February 2023, Vardanyan has been charged with false accusations, held in conditions against international law and faces a trial that will not be up to international standards, especially regarding access of international observers to the proceedings. In addition, Vardanyan’s case has been separated from the other seven political prisoners, raising questions about whether he in particular is being politically targeted.

“The illegal detention of Ruben and the other former leaders of Artsakh is an egregious abuse of human rights and the international justice system and must be ended,” said Paul Polman, Selection Committee member of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative co-founded by Vardanyan. “The irony of this entire situation is that Azerbaijan has been selected to host COP 29 in a blatant attempt to ‘greenwash’ their international reputation. COP has a major focus on the interconnectivity of climate change and human rights at a time when they are abusing both in plain sight.”

Vardanyan’s family demands that:

  1. All illegally detained ethnic Armenian prisoners, including Vardanyan, should be released immediately and unconditionally.
  2. Should the illegal trials proceed, they must happen before the prisoners’ detention orders expire in May, must meet global legal standards, and international observers and media must be allowed to attend.
  3. The Azeri government must allow immediate access of the International Red Cross to assess the wellbeing of Vardanyan and the other prisoners. The family’s access to telephone calls with Vardanyan must be restored.
  4. Any peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan must include the release of all ethnic Armenian prisoners.
  5. COP 29 should not proceed in Azerbaijan without these steps occurring.
Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

1 Comment

  1. Too bad Armenia elected an absolute useless incompetent traitor like Pashinyan who can care less about true patriots like Vardanyan. Pashinyan is so impotent that his foreign policy is now of unilateral concessions because a war, that he has no ability to protect his country, its people or its borders “might break out at any moment”. What a loser he is. The traitor has brought this ruin upon Armenia and Artsakh. Make no mistake. He IS the enemy within.

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