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May 25
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Azerbaijan carries out a policy of isolating the Armenians it has imprisoned from the outside world. Siranush Sahakyan, representative of the interests of Armenian prisoners of war at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and president of the International and Comparative Law Center, spoke about this in an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am.

The human rights activist noted that the presence of international organizations was prohibited in that regard: they were deprived of the opportunity to visit Armenians, record the situation, and report to the international community. "This policy is more strictly applied to the former officials of Artsakh, including Ruben Vardanyan. It is disturbing that Vardanyan exercised his rights through a hunger strike, which, as a rule, is a consequence of laws being broken. A hunger strike is a tool through which one can try to solve problems by attracting the attention of local authorities or the international community," added Sahakyan.

She noted that within the framework of exercising this right, the access of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is limited, which means that information about his health condition and other important circumstances is being hidden.

"In that sense, we are dealing with risks that do not arise from the principles of international law and humanitarian law. These individuals have been given the domestic status of an arrested person. They should be protected by international norms, contact with the outside world should be ensured, including meetings and contact with family members as well as with local and foreign lawyers," said Sahakyan.

The human rights activist emphasized that, taking into account Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, the aforementioned individuals are deprived of the right to consular visits.

"When foreigners are in prison, visits are organized through consular services in order to prevent torture and protect the rights of these persons. Armenia should deal with this issue, even in the conditions where it is impossible for Armenia to directly exercise this right.

It may be delegated to a third country. There are countries with friendly positions that should take responsibility and visit the Armenians held there at any cost. At this stage, visits to Ruben Vardanyan are particularly important," Sahakyan explained. According to her estimation, the state is making certain efforts to return the Armenians kept in Azerbaijan.

"My main concern was that the political solution to these problems, which were inevitable, was intertwined with the solution to problems of an interstate nature. An autonomous approach to humanitarian issues has not been demonstrated, whereas humanitarian issues should be resolved more easily than political issues related to borders and territorial integrity.

The humanitarian problems of the Armenians held there should be solved alongside the global issues. We consider this unacceptable," said the human rights activist. She called on both the authorities of Armenia and the international community to solve these problems as quickly as possible, regardless of the existence of other issues.

"This is a question of fundamental rights. We are talking about a person in illegal detention whose rights are violated, including correspondence with relatives, freedom of speech, and the right not to be tortured.

The question of Ruben Vardanyan and the other leaders of Artsakh is presented within the framework of international protests. The state is presenting the issue of persons captured in the 2023 attack.

Perhaps we should adopt the approach of the complaint submitted to the ECHR and the decisions made within the framework of this process. But there are other international mechanisms. The United Nations has a working group on arbitrary detention, where families submit individual complaints to international human rights organizations.

Here, I will single out the role of local human rights organizations, which should inform international structures, while the latter, through appeals, resolutions and other tools, should record the reality and ensure the release of the illegally arrested. Ruben Vardanyan confirms, even in the current conditions, that values are more important than life itself," added Sahakyan.

The human rights activist attached great importance to the provision of access to independent international structures for illegally detained persons and the organization of an immediate visit of ICRC representatives, as well as the provision of other mechanisms, including consular visits.

According to Sahakyan, these are the primary means without which it is not possible to protect life, health, and other fundamental rights. Referring to the ICRC's agreed steps with Azerbaijan, she noted that, under international pressure, Baku should ensure the entry permit of the representatives of the Red Cross.

"As for the presence of international structures, they should be consistently addressing Azerbaijan, but again, Azerbaijan itself should allow them to visit the Armenians held there. I think, in the case of consistent calls, the bans on Azerbaijani are also important, and the international community should respond to it separately," concluded the human rights activist.

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