Rights of displaced persons in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict


Sargsyan v Azerbaijan and Chiragov v Armenia

Two Grand Chamber judgments delivered on 16 June 2015 upheld the European Convention rights of families displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the early 1990s, a conflict that created hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) on both sides, and which has remained unresolved in the ensuing decades. Peace negotiations have been held under the auspices of the OSCE ‘Minsk Group’ (co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States), but as the judgments make clear, settlement negotiations have repeatedly failed.

The circumstances – and the Court’s findings

Minas Sargsyan and his family, ethnic Armenians, lived in the village of Gulistan just north of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but within the internationally-recognised territory of Azerbaijan. In June 1992 the village was heavily bombed by Azerbaijani forces, and the villagers fled for their lives. The Sargsyans resettled as refugees in Armenia. The applicants in the Chiragov case were Azerbaijani Kurds living in the Lachin region which came under repeated attack and they too fled, in May 1992, shortly before the town of Lachin was captured by forces of Armenian ethnicity. They were subsequently not able to return to the region and therefore lived as IDPs elsewhere in Azerbaijan.

In both cases the applicants’ complaints about the loss of their homes, land and property were upheld, with the Court finding continuing violations of their rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (the peaceful enjoyment of property), Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life and home) and Article 13 (the right to an effective remedy).