Azerbaijan authorities responsible for the death and torture of an Armenian man, European Court says

The European Court of Human Rights has obliged Azerbaijan to pay 60,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,200 in respect of costs and expenses to an Armenian family.

The case of Saribekyan and Balyan v. Azerbaijan concerned the death of the applicants’ son, an Armenian citizen, while in military police detention in Azerbaijan.

The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been, by five votes to two, a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights owing to the applicants’ son’s death in detention in Azerbaijan, and, by six votes to one, a violation of Article 2 owing to the lack of an effective investigation into the son’s death, and, by six votes to one, a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) because the applicant’s son had been tortured before his death, and, unanimously, no violation of the rights of the applicants under Article 3.

The Court found in particular that the applicants had made a prima facie case that their son, Manvel Saribekyan, had died as a result of the violent actions of others, notably personnel at the Military Police Department in Baku, where he was being held. It could not accept the Azerbaijani authorities’ version of events that he had hanged himself. Furthermore, Azerbaijan had not provided any evidence to question Armenian forensic findings on injuries suffered by Mr Saribekyan before his death, including signs of beating and a head trauma, illtreatment which had to be classified as torture

The applicants, Mamikon Saribekyan and Siranush Balyan, are Armenian nationals. Their son, Manvel Saribekyan, born in 1990, was arrested in Azerbaijan in September 2010. His family state that he inadvertently crossed the border in the fog in a forest while looking for wood and stray cattle, however, the Azerbaijani authorities accused him of being part of a plan to blow up a school in a nearby Azerbaijani village.

He was taken to the Military Police Department of the Ministry of Defence in Baku and placed in a cell, where he was found dead in October 2010, with the Azerbaijani authorities subsequently finding that he had hanged himself. A forensic report was issued. The body was returned to Armenia in November 2010 and the authorities there opened a criminal investigation. A forensic report found injuries on his neck, head and body.

The Armenian Prosecutor General asked for legal assistance from Azerbaijan but as no reply was received the Armenian pre-trial investigation was suspended in December 2011. An investigation in Azerbaijan found in January 2011 that Mr Saribekyan had committed suicide, that he had been held in proper conditions and that he had not been assaulted while in custody.

The Court held by six votes to one that Azerbaijan was to pay the applicants 60,000 euros (EUR) jointly in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,200 in respect of costs and expenses.

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