The residents of Shikahogh, Srashen and Nerkin Hand villages reported that shots were fired while they were engaged in agricultural work on their lands

Kapan city of Syunik region, Nerkin Hand, Shikahogh, Srashen villages were visited by a fact-finding team headed by the Republic of Armenia (RA) Human Rights Defender on February 16, 2021. The visit recorded violations or dangers for residents' right to life, property, and other vital rights.

The visit was accompanied by the head of Kapan community Mr. Gorg Parsyan and other competent community representatives. During the visit, detailed discussions were held, including private conversations with the residents. Professional observations were made, and studies of applications and complaints registered were undertaken an individual case by case analysis and assessments.

Based on the information gathered during the course of the RA Human Rights Defender’s visit to the region, the following are the relevant findings:

1) Azerbaijani armed servicemen in the immediate vicinity of the villages of Kapan community continue to discharge small and large-caliber weapons. The shootings are regular, both during the day and at night. They are clearly and unmistakably heard in the villages, causing anxiety, first of all to the women and children. The Human Rights Defender has already published evidence of Azerbaijani shootings in the vicinity of Kapan community villages.

The next day of our visit, the same information was also communicated to the Syunik regional subdivision of the Defender's Office by the residents of Tsav and Chakaten villages and was subsequently verified.

2) Due to the process of "determining" the borders of the Republic of Armenia with Azerbaijan, as one of the many consequences of the September-November war of 2020, the pastures, the private and community arable lands of the referenced villages of Kapan are being targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces. This turn of events has made it impossible to make use of the pastures and arable lands.

3) During the visit, the residents of Shikahogh, Srashen and Nerkin Hand villages reported that shots were fired while they were engaged in agricultural work on their lands and in broad daylight. In some cases, they were on their lands with their children and grandchildren.

At the same time, the Azerbaijani servicemen who fired the shots are at such a distance (even less than 1 km) that the lands of the Armenian villagers are visible to the naked eye. In other words, they are clearly observing these civilians and are witnesses the villagers‘ carrying out their daily chores and the agricultural work on their lands.

All of this poses also poses a direct threat to the children. Notably, the Azerbaijani military is located less than one (1) km from the school near the village of Nerkin Hand.

These facts have been verified by the observations of the Human Rights Defender's staff, the alarming concerns raised by community bodies, and by the residents in these regions.

4) The presence of Azerbaijani servicemen (including Azeri flags and signs) on the road from Kapan to Chakaten and other villages in Kapan community of Syunik region have seriously hampered the free movement of civilians and, foremost among them, the residents of the surrounding villages. According to these residents, as it turns out, there are Azerbaijani armed servicemen in these areas to "protect" the signs and/or flags from the residents.

Because of all this, the villagers, even for their vital needs (for example, going to or returning from a medical facility), have to refrain from walking and traveling on those roads in the evening hours, for their own safety, and for the safety of their families.

5) The description once again confirms that the presence of Azerbaijani armed forces (flags and placards) in the immediate vicinity of Armenian villages or on roads connecting communities, or any movement of them, grossly violates the property rights of residents, including their ability to earn a living, and it seriously endangers their life and health, physical and mental inviolability, and other rights of vital importance which are guaranteed internationally and by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia. These disruptions and infringements on the safety and security of the people also extend to and affect the lives of the children of this region.

All of these transgressions are directly due to the hasty processes of applying mechanical approaches and imposing dire consequences to the population of Armenia. Under Azerbaijani threats of war and use of force, without professional commission work, and at expense of the legitimate interests of the border residents, their internationally guaranteed rights, and consequently the requirements of the rule of law, these trespasses continue to take place.

6) During the February 16, 2021 visit, the staff of the RA Human Rights Defender, with the participation of the head of Kapan community also discussed issues related to the provision of social assistance and socio-economic rights to the villagers. Specifically, issues related to the process of refunding of deposits and/or payments made were discussed in the village of Nerkin Hand.

7) During the visit, the head of Kapan community and a number of community officials provided the Human Rights Defender with detailed information on the referenced issues, as well as the problems related to the social sphere, the living conditions, as well as the security concerns of the villagers in other villages of Kapan.

Accordingly, the findings derived from the visit are being summarized by the Human Rights Defender's Office. Proposals will be submitted to the competent state bodies, and if necessary, clarifications will be sought to address each of these matters.

Arman Tatoyan

The Human Rights Defender of Armenia

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