Human Rights Defender (HRD) Anahit Manasyan has issued a statement condemning the targeting of Ruben Vardanyan, the former Minister of State of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), as part of Azerbaijan's anti-Armenian and ethnically based hatred policy. The statement addresses the circumstances surrounding Ruben Vardanyan's arrest on September 27 by the border guard service of Azerbaijan.
He has been charged with crimes related to terrorism financing, participating in armed organizations or groups not provided for by law, and illegally crossing the state border of Azerbaijan.
The HRD emphasizes that the actions against Ruben Vardanyan and other ethnic Armenians who have been deprived of their freedom by Azerbaijan are taking place in violation of international legal guarantees and standards. Key points made in the statement include:
The State Security Service of Azerbaijan filmed Ruben Vardanyan's arrest process in detail. These videos and photos have been widely distributed in Azerbaijani media, accompanied by hateful and hostile insults directed at him, calls to kill Armenians, and deep-seated hatred towards Armenians.
Prior to his arrest, Azerbaijani officials, including the President of Azerbaijan, public figures, and the media labeled Ruben Vardanyan as a "criminal." This campaign aimed to tarnish his reputation and presumption of innocence.
The HRD highlights the violation of Ruben Vardanyan's right to a fair trial and the principle of presumption of innocence. International legal documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recognize the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that broadcasting footage of a suspect on television carries the risk of violating the right to a fair trial, especially in cases involving high-profile individuals. The HRD stresses that Azerbaijan's interference with fundamental rights jeopardizes a fair and impartial court process.
The statement underscores that Azerbaijan's actions violate international legal standards and guarantees recognized universally in the civilized world.
The HRD continues to receive reports of Azerbaijan's interference with the right to freedom and personal integrity of individuals moving from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia through the Lachin Corridor. The observations related to legal guarantees apply to these cases as well.
The statement expresses concern that in such conditions, no legal process against ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan can be carried out in compliance with international legal standards related to fundamental human rights.
The HRD calls for effective measures to guarantee the fundamental rights of the affected individuals, ensure legal procedures are observed, and prompt responses from competent bodies and actors with a human rights mandate. It emphasizes the need for international attention and action to address these human rights violations.