Any shots fired by Azerbaijani forces near the vicinity of villages in Armenia’s Syunik Province is a threat to Armenia fraught with dangers to the civilian population in the area, said Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan, who also published a report following a fact finding mission to the region.
Last week, Tatoyan warned that Azerbaijani forces, using small and large weapons, were firing shots in the direction of villages in the Syunik Province from as close as one kilometer away. Some officials opted to minimize the incidents by saying Azerbaijani were merely discharging their weapons in the air.
Tatoyan on Friday took issue with the semantics being used to rationalize the Azerbaijanis violations, asserting that any shots—whether sporadic or continuous—must be regarded as a rights violation.
“In recent days, there have been reports that the shots fired by the Azerbaijani military near the border villages of Syunik province are sporadic or that they are simply firing in the air. This leaves the impression that the dangers and risks to life associated with such shootings are, therefore, minimized,” said Tatoyan who countered by saying that even a single shot fired disturbs the peace and tranquility of the villagers, endangers their and their children’s life and deprives them of the right to work in their fields or use their property.
“The presumption should be that any shots fired the Azerbaijani military should be seen as a regular shooting and thus, must officially be recorded as shots fired at the village,” explained Tatotyan.
“The presence of Azerbaijani armed servicemen in general, and particularly in the immediate vicinity of the villages of Syunik province or on the roads connecting the communities of the province, and any movement by them violates Armenia’s Constitution, internationally guaranteed rights of the peaceful inhabitants of Syunik, and is a threat to their peace and tranquility,” Tatoyan said.
Tatoyan led a fact finding mission to Syunik Province on Tuesday, visiting the city of Kapan and the Nerkin Hand, Shikahogh, Srashen villages. The team observed violations and threats to life property and right of the residents.
Kapan Mayor Gevorg Parsyan and other area officials accompanied Tatoyan’s team, which held detailed discussions, including private conversations with the residents. The team made professional observations, and assessments were made of registered complaints on a case by case basis.
Tatoyan made the following statement based on the fact finding mission:
Azerbaijani armed forces in the immediate vicinity of the villages of Kapan continue to discharge small and large caliber weapons. The shootings are regular, both during the day and at night. They are clearly and unmistakably heard in the villages, causing anxiety, first of all to the women and children. The Human Rights Defender has already published evidence of Azerbaijani shootings in the vicinity of Kapan community villages.
The same information was also communicated to the Syunik regional subdivision of the Defender’s Office by the residents of Tsav and Chakaten villages and was subsequently verified.
2. Due to the process of “determining” the borders of Armenia with Azerbaijan, as one of the many consequences of the September November war of 2020, the pastures, the private and community arable lands of the referenced villages of Kapan are being targeted by Azerbaijani armed forces. This turn of events has made it impossible to make use of those fields.
3. During the visit, the residents of Shikahogh, Srashen and Nerkin Hand villages reported that shots were fired while they were engaged in agricultural work on their lands and in broad daylight. In some cases, they were on their lands with their children and grandchildren.
At the same time, the Azerbaijani servicemen who fired the shots are at such a distance (even less than 1 km) that the lands of the Armenian villagers are visible to the naked eye. In other words, they are clearly observing these civilians and are witnessing the villagers carrying out their daily chores and the agricultural work on their lands.
All of this also poses a direct threat to children. Notably, the Azerbaijani military is located less than one kilometer from a school near the village of Nerkin Hand.
These facts have been verified by the observations of the Human Rights Defender’s staff through alarming concerns raised by community bodies and by the residents in these regions.
4. The presence of Azerbaijani servicemen (including Azeri flags and signs) on the road from Kapan to Chakaten and other villages in Kapan, which is in the Syunik Province, have seriously hampered the free movement of civilians and especially the residents of the surrounding villages. According to these residents, as it turns out, there are Azerbaijani armed servicemen in these areas to “protect” the signs and/or flags from the residents.
Because of all this, the villagers have to refrain from walking and traveling on those roads in the evening hours, for their own safety, and for the safety of their families, even for vital needs (for example traveling to and from a medical facility).
5. The description once again confirms that the presence of Azerbaijani armed forces (flags and signs) in the immediate vicinity of Armenian villages or on roads connecting communities, or any movement of them, grossly violates the property rights of residents, including their ability to earn a living, and it seriously endangers their life and health, physical and mental well being, and other rights of vital importance which are guaranteed internationally and by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia. These disruptions and infringements on the safety and security of the people also extend to and affect the lives of the children of this region.
All of these transgressions are directly due to the hasty process of applying mechanical approaches and imposing dire consequences on the population of Armenia. Under Azerbaijani threats of war and use of force, and at expense of the legitimate interests of the border residents, their internationally guaranteed rights, and consequently the requirements of the rule of law, these violations continue to take place.
6. During the February 16, 2021 visit, the staff of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, with the participation of the head of the Kapan community also discussed issues related to the provision of social assistance and socio economic rights to the villagers. Specifically, issues related to the process of refunding of deposits and/or payments made were discussed in the village of Nerkin Hand.
7. During the visit, the head of the Kapan community and a number of community officials provided the Human Rights Defender with detailed information on the referenced issues, as well as the problems related to living conditions, as well as the security concerns of the villagers in other villages of Kapan.
Tatoyan said that based on the team’s findings, proposals will be submitted to the relevant state bodies, “and if necessary, clarifications will be sought to address each of these matters.”