The Human Rights Defender visited Vardenis, Kut, Sotk, Norabak, Verin and Nerkin Shorzha settlements, as well as the Upper Shorzha mountain range.
The fact-finding visit of Ms. Kristinne Grigoryan started with a meeting with the Governor of Gegharkunik province Mr. Karen Sargsyan.
The Governor presented to the Human Rights Defender the problems faced by the province, prioritizing the current situation on the borders, the provision of gas to the communities, the access to drinking and irrigation water, the obstacles to agricultural work, the construction work in the province, and the current and planned subsidies programs and other relevant issues.
The Defender noted that they were aware of the current problems in the province, which were aggravated after the incursion of the Azerbaijani armed forces into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. Ms. Kristinne Grigoryan thanked the Governor for their cooperation and noted that the fact-finding activities of the Human Rights Defender’s Office will continue: “We will be in the communities, we will collect information from the residents, and we will acquaint ourselves with the problems and issues faced by them. We will also be ready to continue our discussions, with the aim of solving the current problems.”
Afterwards, the Human Rights Defender visited the regional subdivision of the Office of the Human Rights Defender where they got acquainted with the current activities of the regional subdivision and the process of the applications under study. The future activities of the regional subdivision were also discussed.
Subsequently, the Human Rights Defender and representatives of the Defender’s Office visited the Vardenis community, where they met with the Head of the community Mr. Aharon Khachatryan and representatives of the municipality. The challenges, priorities, security, and socio-economic issues facing the community were discussed on site.
The Human Rights Defender, accompanied by the Head of the Vardenis community visited the villages of Verin and Nerkin Shorzha and held meetings with the residents. The residents expressed their concerns to the Defender, which were mainly related to security issues. They noted that they cannot use their lands, grasslands, and pastures due to illegal Azerbaijani deployments. In practice, it has been very difficult, and in certain cases impossible for the residents to exercise their property rights.
During the meeting with residents in the border community of Norabak, primarily security issues were raised.
The residents also prioritized the issue of access to drinking and irrigation water, as well as noted that due to the reduction of grasslands and pastures, it has become almost impossible to graze their cattle, and the number of livestock has decreased significantly. Problems related to the use of the community’s arable land by the residents were also raised.
The residents of the border community of Kut presented to the Defender similar issues related to security and socioeconomic situation. The residents of Kut also mentioned the issues related to the provision of drinking and irrigation water, access to inter-community transport, and issues related to the repair and lighting of the road of the village. The problem of the compensation for the 80 heads of large cattle belonging to the residents of Kut which passed into the territory controlled by the Azerbaijani armed forces last year has not been solved yet.
During the monitoring visit to Sotk, the residents expressed their concerns to the Defender regarding security and employment issues. Moreover, the residents noted that due to the job cuts in the Sotk gold mine, they have appeared to the front of the real danger of becoming unemployed. The residents informed that after the incursions of the Azerbaijani armed forces, their normal life has been disturbed and that they are facing great difficulties to satisfy their basic needs, they are facing problems related to drinking and irrigation water, and as a result of the lack of pastures, they are unable to graze their cattle.
The issues registered as a result of the fact-finding activities, as well as the problems raised by the residents, were discussed with the representatives of the municipality, who noted that certain issues were in the process of being solved.
In all the communities visited by the Defender, the residents informed about the systemic and uniform acts of the Azerbaijani armed forces to harm the population and keep them in a constant state of fear. In particular, the Azerbaijani armed forces are burning the harvested grass of the villagers in large volumes, stealing large and small cattle, are shooting in the direction of the residents conducting agricultural work on lands that belong to them through property rights, and which are located near the positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces, are targeting the windows of the houses of the residents at night with torchlights, and are using unmanned aerial vehicles in the sky of the communities both during the day and night.
The described acts prove that criminal operations of the Azerbaijani armed forces which are aimed at disturbing the lives of the residents of the peaceful communities of Armenia are continuous, coordinated, and directed from one center.
All recorded problems are under the direct attention of the Human Rights Defender, and steps will be taken, within the full scope of the mandate of the Defender, to solve them.
The Defender will address relevant letters to the competent departments, as well as present the criminal acts of the Azerbaijani armed forces against the peaceful residents to the competent international organizations and actors.