Car damaged by artillery shelling in Matagis, Nagorno Karabakh, April 2016. CivilNet photo

The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) heard two inter-related cases from Artsakh and Azerbaijan residents affected by artillery shelling during April 2016 fighting and turned down their demands for compensation.

In the case of Khudunts v. Azerbaijan, ECHR heard from Mardakert resident Sventlana Khudunts, who was forced to evacuate from her home on the morning of April 2, 2016 after Azerbaijani forces began to shell the town. She went back after the return to cease-fire on April 5, to begin repairs to her house caused by the shelling, but was forced to evacuate again when artillery exchanges resumed from April 26-28. The case was originally submitted on August 12, 2016.

In Amrahov v. Armenia, apparently submitted in response to Khudunts’s case on August 31, 2016, resident of Azerbaijan’s Goranboy district Nushiravan Amrahov outlined a similar story of evacuation due to artillery shelling and return with claims of light damage to his property.

The court heard both complaints on February 26, 2019 and in rulings communicated on March 21, opined that both applicants did not substantiate claims that their lives were threatened or that they were denied access to their property, beyond the brief periods of escalation. Thus the court found both complaints “ill-founded” and dismissed them.

Both rulings were preceded by the following “General background” on the Karabakh conflict prepared by ECHR:

“At the time of the demise of the Soviet Union, the conflict over the status of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh arose. In September 1991 the establishment of the “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh” (the “NKR”; in 2017 renamed the “Republic of Artsakh”) was announced, the independence of which has not been recognised by any State or international organisation. In early 1992 the conflict gradually escalated into a full-scale war which ended with the signing, on 5 May 1994, of a ceasefire agreement (the Bishkek Protocol) by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the “NKR”. Following the war, no political settlement of the conflict has been reached; the situation remains hostile and tense and there have been recurring breaches of the ceasefire agreement (see further Chiragov v. Armenia [GC], no. 13216/05, §§ 12-31, 16 June 2015). The most serious such breach started during the night between 1 and 2 April 2016 and lasted until 5 April and involved heavy military clashes close to the border between the “NKR” and Azerbaijan (sometimes referred to as the “Four-Day War”). Further clashes took place later that month. Estimates of casualties vary considerably; official sources indicate at least 100 dead on either side of the conflict. The great majority of the casualties were soldiers but also several civilians died. Many residents in the targeted towns and villages had to leave their homes for certain periods of time. Furthermore, the clashes led to substantial property and infrastructure damage.”

Separately, ECHR has yet to hear a number of cases related to killings of civilians and mutilation of their bodies, as well as of the bodies of military servicemen.