On July 29, at about 9:30, accompanied by the ICRC, by prior agreement with the Azerbaijani side, the convoy transporting patients from Artsakh to Armenia reached the illegal Azerbaijani “checkpoint” located near the Hakari Bridge.
During the passport check, Vagif Khachatryan, a resident of the Patara community of the Republic of Artsakh, born in 1955, gave his passport to the representatives of the Azerbaijani border service, who then did not return his passport. When asked by Vagif Khachatryan’s daughter and the ICRC representative why they did not return the passport, the Azerbaijanis replied that they would return it in 5 minutes.
At that time, Vagif Khachatryan was escorted to a medical office located at the illegal Azerbaijani “checkpoint”, where he was asked health-related questions, as well as about the reasons for his transfer to Armenia.
Then Vagif Khachatryan was informed that he had to proceed to one of the rooms located near the “checkpoint” for 15 minutes to answer a few questions. Vagif’s daughter and the ICRC representative insisted that they could ask their questions directly at the checkpoint and that there was no need to move to another place. After that, the Azerbaijanis threatened to do it with the use of force. At the same time, according to the testimonies, a lot of Azerbaijani servicemen armed with machine guns were gathered at the checkpoint.
Vagif Khachatryan and the ICRC representative of the Stepanakert Office (a foreign national) were put into a Niva car, which headed to the lower part of the Hakari bridge. Approximately 10 minutes later, the ICRC representative returned to the checkpoint in a Chevrolet car, while Vagif Khachatryan was taken away in an unknown direction. According to the testimony, the ICRC representative was pushed out of the car by the Azerbaijanis.
All these actions took place in the presence of Vagif Khachatryan’s daughter, who tried to do everything possible to prevent the kidnapping of her father, but she was threatened with the use of force.
68-year-old Vagif Khachatryan suffered from a cardiovascular disease and was being transferred to the Nork Marash Medical Center in Yerevan for surgery.
Before transferring patients to medical institutions of the Republic of Armenia, the ICRC receives the consent of all parties, including the Azerbaijani side. Therefore, after the agreement is reached, the ICRC is responsible for the safe transportation of these persons.
The criminal case initiated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan against Vagif Khachatryan and his so-called “arrest” within its framework is a false and far-fetched pretext for his abduction. According to the information received and the research conducted by the Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, it was confirmed that there is no data on Vagif Khachatryan in any international intelligence system.
Consequently, Vagif Khachatryan is a person under international humanitarian protection, for the protection of whose rights the Ombudsman of Artsakh demands the following:
A public statement made by the ICRC, making a legal assessment of this Azerbaijani crime, taking all actions arising from the ICRC’s mandate to return Vagif Khachatryan to Artsakh, to ensure the protection of the rights of Vagif Khachatryan before his return, to exclude torture and inhumane treatment towards him.
To present to international organisations and governments of individual states the facts about the kidnapping of a citizen of the Republic of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and crimes systematically carried out against the people of Artsakh, pursuing the undeniable goal of ethnic cleansing and genocide, in order to ensure the necessary international pressure on Azerbaijan.
International organisations should take as a basis the alarm voiced by the ICRC and a number of international human rights organisations about Azerbaijan’s large-scale violations of the rights of the people of Artsakh, apply coercive and punitive measures against Azerbaijan to make it fulfil its international obligations.
The Lachin corridor, which also includes the Hakari Bridge, according to the Trilateral Statement of 2020, is under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces. The kidnapping of Vagif Khachatryan took place a few meters from the stronghold of the Russian peacekeeping contingent located at the Hakari Bridge, which did nothing to prevent the abduction. Taking into account the fact that the Lachin corridor is considered a territory under the control of Russian peacekeepers, and the Russian Federation is the guarantor of the implementation of the provisions of the Trilateral Statement, the Russian Federation should take all actions to return Vagif Khachatryan to Artsakh and restore full control over the Lachin corridor, preventing the recurrence of cases of abduction of Artsakh citizens by Azerbaijan.