Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan on Friday stressed the need for the creation of a demilitarized zone in Syunik Province to guarantee the rights of its residents.
Presenting the new concept on the border-related process in the country’s regions at a news conference, the ombudsman said the comprehensive research carried out by his team and the obtained evidence confirm its necessity.
The ombudsman highlighted that the Azerbaijani troops continue opening gunfire in the immediate vicinity of several Armenian border villages, presenting some evidence of the shootings.
Tatoyan stressed that the border determination process must be based on the most important principles – the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
“Human rights must be at the core of all border processes. This is not an alternative requirement, but a mandatory one. Moreover, human rights are such a basis that if not ensured, the legitimacy of the whole process will fail at once,” he said.
The ombudsman called for respect for the dignity of border residents, protection of their rights, peace and security in the process of determining the country’s borders.
“Naturally, all this must be ensured through specialized commission work, which must be carried out though the prior involvement of specialists, including engineers, land developers and historians, as well as through mandatory cooperation with local residents,” he said.
Arman Tatoyan next pointed out the problems in Gegharkunik and Syunik Provinces, highlighting gross violations of human dignity and the existing threats to the civilians’ lives.
“The school in the village of Nerkin Hand in Syunik is only 500 meters away from the positions of the Azerbaijani military and shots are fired there. Can any international organization tell me if this is in the best interests of the children?” the ombudsman said.
Also, he warned of gross violations of property rights, stating that some residents of border villages possessing certificates of ownership are not able to use their lands because they are so-called “Azerbaijani territories”.
“There are land lots and houses coming under direct target of Azerbaijan, preventing the people from using them amid the continuing shootings,” he said.
In Tatoyan’s words, the new concept calls for the creation of a demilitarized security zone with a distance of at least 5-7 kilometers in Syunik.
“These are evidence-based measures, based mainly on the types of weapons employed by the Azerbaijani forces near Armenian villages,” the ombudsman said.
He stressed that the international community has a lot to do here, as all this contradicts international human rights instruments.
Tatoyan said that they cooperate with the Foreign Ministry of Armenia and ambassadors. He also noted that they have received responses from leading international organizations, but did not disclose their names, citing agreements reached with them.
“I am just happy that the issues raised are being addressed. We substantiate our claims with concrete evidence. I do not give any subjective assessment at all, they are only evidence, information, facts. Based on all this, we have come to a consultation that there must be a demilitarized zone, as we are dealing with the military of a country the strategic, political goals of which announced by its supreme commander are of ethnic cleansing and genocidal nature,” Tatoyan said.