In a landmark case, one of the first to come before the Court concerning ‘ethnic cleansing’ this week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) Grand Chamber has ruled that the rights of Kurdish Azerbaijani refugees were violated when they were unable to return to their homes in the Lachin district of Azerbaijan, from which they had fled during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in 1992.
The Grand Chamber of 17 judges held that the following rights had been continually violated by Armenia:
- Article 1 of Protocol 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
- Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the ECHR
- Article 13 (right to effective remedy)
The judgment held that Armenia had exercised control over Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories and, therefore, had jurisdiction over the Lachin district, which they had denied. It was deemed by the Court that there could be no justification for preventing the applicants from having access to their property without compensation and that ongoing peace negotiations did not free the Armenian Government from their obligation to take other measures. The Court called for a mechanism by which Applicants could have their property rights restored and could obtain compensation.
There are over one thousand individual applications lodged by people who were displaced during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh currently pending before the Court which were awaiting the result of this case
The importance of the case to all parties including Armenia as Respondent and Azerbaijan as the Interested State Party resulted in a rare direct referral to the Grand Chamber and two Grand Chamber Hearings. Voluminous pleadings concerning the novel and complex arguments were prepared by counsel. Bryony Poynor, formerly a lawyer at the ECrtHR, was involved in the case from the initial pleadings to the Grand Chamber and Michael Ivers had a leading role in relation to the pleadings with others and made detailed oral submissions at both hearings, which are viewable as video on the HUDOC site.
The case is of great significance in inter-governmental talks concerning the on-going military dispute between the two Governments as well as the Minsk Peace Process.
Michael Ivers is a former Chairman of the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), which brought the case. Bryony Poynor was a longstanding and active member of the legal team.
More information is available in the judgment: Chiragov and Others v Armenia.