A man walks through the ruins of his house in the village of Talish, some 80km north of Karabakh's capital Stepanakert, on April 6, 2016. The global community must recognise the right of the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region to determine its own future, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said on April 6 after four days of deadly clashes that unsettled the West. / AFP PHOTO / KAREN MINASYAN

Armenians Seek War Crimes Rulings Against Azerbaijan

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Hundreds of Armenians have filed government-backed lawsuits in the European Court of Human Rights accusing Azerbaijan of beheading Armenian soldiers and committing other atrocities during last year’s heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ara Ghazarian, an Armenian legal expert involved in the unprecedented legal action, said on Tuesday that the Strasbourg-based court has already requested official information from Baku on over 20 of the 359 lawsuits filed from Armenia and Karabakh.

“We expect a just compensation,” Ghazarian told a joint news conference with Armenia’s and Karabakh’s human rights ombudsmen. “It could be both a recognition of the violations [of the European Convention on Human Rights] and subsequent compensation for material and moral damages. But first and foremost, we must ensure that the European Court recognizes that there were violations.”

The war crimes alleged by the plaintiffs stem from the April 2016 hostilities in and around Karabakh which left least 180 soldiers from both warring sides dead. The authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan say that three Armenian soldiers were beheaded by Azerbaijani troops at the time. They claim that one of them, the 31-year-old Major Hayk Toroyan, was still alive when his Azerbaijani captors began cutting off his head.

The headless body of another soldier, Kyaram Sloyan, was handed over to his family and buried on April 4, 2016, two days after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive at two sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.” The family living in a village in central Armenia received the 19-year-old’s severed head later on.

According to Karabakh prosecutors, 15 other Armenian soldiers had their ears cut off after being killed by Azerbaijani forces.

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Azerbaijan’s government and military have denied the allegations. They claimed that the Armenians themselves mutilated the bodies of Azerbaijani soldiers killed in what was the worst fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone since 1994.

Another Armenian lawsuit filed in Strasbourg stems from the violent deaths of three elderly members of a family in Talish, a village in northern Karabakh that was devastated by Azerbaijani shelling in April 2016. They were reportedly murdered by Azerbaijani commandos that burst into their home located on the outskirts of Talish.

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