ECHR communicates the case concerning the killing of three Armenian soldiers in Azeri attack

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has communicated the case concerning the armed conflict near Armenia’s Chinary village in December 2016, resulting in the death of three Armenian soldiers.

Lawyer Ara Ghazaryan, who has worked on the application,  says “this is a new context.”

“If the cases of April 2016 war concerned armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, this case concerns the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia where Armenian soldiers were killed in the territory of Armenia following an attack by Azeri soldiers,” he said in a Facebook post

The applicants, who are Armenian nationals, are the parents and siblings of Mr Edgar Narayan, born in 1995, Mr Erik Abovyan, born in 1996, and Mr Shavarsh Melikyan, born in 1990, who were soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and were killed on 29 December 2016 while being on duty at the military position “Bitlis”, close to Chinari village in the Tavush region of Armenia. They are represented before the Court by Mr Artak Zeynalyan and Mr Ara Ghazaryan, Yerevan.

In the morning of 29 December 2016 Mr Çingiz Gurbanov, a soldier in the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, crossed the border into Armenian territory and advanced towards “Bitlis”. At around 8.30 a.m., Mr Narayan and Mr Abovyan left the “Bitlis” trench shelter to go to the toilet and to collect water from some canisters. Both were unarmed. Shots were fired which, it was later discovered, killed Mr Narayan and Mr Abovyan. The other soldiers at the military position immediately ran in the direction of the sound of the shots. Shots were exchanged and a third Armenian soldier, Mr Melikyan, was killed.

Armenian reinforcements arrived and, after one hour of occasional crossfire, the shots from the other side stopped. The dead bodies of the three Armenian soldiers were found on the ground along with the corpse of Mr Gurbanov. A rifle, additional magazines and spent cartridge cases were found next to Mr Gurbanov’s body.

A criminal investigation was opened by the Chief Military Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Armenia on 29 December 2016. The investigator examined the site of the incident and drew up a report. Forensic medical examinations of the bodies of the three Armenian soldiers were initiated on 30 December 2016 and concluded with reports of 1, 25 and 3 March 2017, respectively.

The medical reports stated that the three soldiers had died from gunshot wounds to the thorax and neck (Mr Narayan), to the abdomen, thorax and right leg (Mr Abovyan) and to the head (Mr Melikyan). According to a report of 3 May 2017 on the forensic examination of the rifle carried by Mr Gurbanov, the fatal shots had been fired from that rifle.

According to the applicants, Azerbaijan has recognized that its soldier, Mr Gurbanov, killed the Armenian soldiers. Nonetheless, it has not made any investigation of the circumstances of the killings; instead, the State has praised the acts, inter alia, by posthumously giving Mr Gurbanov the title of “National Hero of Azerbaijan” and by naming a street after him.

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