Vagif Khachatryan, moments before his arrest

YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — A daughter of a seriously ill Karabakh resident arrested by Azerbaijani authorities during his aborted evacuation to Armenia demanded his immediate release on Monday, July 31, saying that she fears for his life.

“We have no information about his condition, we don’t know if he is alive or not,” Vera Khachatryan told reporters as she picketed the Yerevan offices of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old resident of the Karabakh village of Patara, was in the latest group of patients who were being escorted by the ICRC to Armenian hospitals for treatment on Saturday, July 29. He was detained at an Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin corridor in what Karabakh’s leadership and the Armenian government condemned as a gross violation of international law.

Azerbaijani authorities said Khachatryan was taken to Baku to stand trial on charges of killing and deporting Karabakh’s ethnic Azerbaijani residents in December 1991, at the beginning of the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Karabakh officials strongly deny the accusations.

The ICRC said on July 30 that its representatives in Baku visited Khachatryan in Azerbaijani custody and enabled him to communicate with his family.

“My father has still not contacted us, that is false information. We have no news except that he is in Baku,” countered Vera Khachatryan, who fled to Armenia during the 2020 war with Azerbaijan.

Vera Khachatryan

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A spokeswoman for the ICRC office in Stepanakert suggested that the Red Cross statement referred to an “oral message” sent by the Karabakh man to his loved ones. ”In this particular case, there was indeed no direct communication, but something was passed on to the family,” said Eteri Musayelian.

Karen Grigoryan, the chief cardiologist at a Stepanakert hospital who treated Vagif Khachatryan, confirmed that the latter suffered from a serious heart disease and needed urgent surgery in Yerevan. “He periodically had blackouts,” Grigoryan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Khachatryan is the first Karabakh patient arrested by the Azerbaijani authorities during medical evacuations by the ICRC which began after Baku halted last December commercial traffic through the only road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. It is not yet clear whether the Red Cross will resume the evacuations after his arrest.

In response, Armenia has applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the protection of the rights of Khachatryan, the Office of Armenian Representative on International Legal Matters announced.

“An application regarding the protection of the rights of Vagif Khachatryan was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights with the request to apply an interim measure against Azerbaijan. We will inform further about further developments․ We will inform further about further developments,” the Office has said.

Medical Convoys Suspended

MORE FROM Armenia & Karabakh

As a result of Khachatryan’s illegal and unexpected arrest by Azerbaijani authorities, the transfer of critically ill patients from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia has been halted..

Speaking to POLITICO, one of the advisers to Artsakh Premier Gurgen Nersisyan,  Artak Beglaryan, confirmed that all medical evacuations have been stopped indefinitely as a result.

The Red Cross did not immediately respond to a query. The Swiss-based aid organization issued a statement on August 1 in which it said it was being prevented from bringing supplies into the region and warned that, without access to food and medicine, “the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate.”

The EU, the U.S., the U.K. and a host of other countries have called on Azerbaijan to reopen the Lachin Corridor to civilian traffic and uphold a  from the International Court of Justice that said Baku must “ensure movement” along the highway.

(Reports from Azatutyun, Public Radio of Armenia and were used in compiling this story.)

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