In the Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan (application no. 40167/06) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:
a continuing violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European
Convention on Human Rights;
a continuing violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention;
a continuing violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
The case concerned an Armenian refugee’s complaint that, after having been forced to flee from his home in the Shahumyan region of Azerbaijan in 1992 during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, he had since been denied the right to return to his village and to have access to and use his property there.
It was the first case in which the Court had to decide on a complaint against a State which had lost control over part of its territory as a result of war and occupation, but which at the same time was alleged to be responsible for refusing a displaced person access to property in an area remaining under its control.
There are currently more than one thousand individual applications pending before the Court which were lodged by persons displaced during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
In Mr Sargsyan’s case, the Court confirmed that, although the village from which he had to flee was located in a disputed area, Azerbaijan had jurisdiction over it.
The Court considered that while it was justified by safety considerations to refuse civilians access to the village, the State had a duty to take alternative measures in order to secure Mr Sargsyan’s rights as long as access to the property was not possible. The fact that peace negotiations were ongoing did not free the Government from their duty to take other measures. What was called for was a property claims mechanism which would be easily accessible to allow Mr Sargsyan and others in his situation to have their property rights restored and to obtain compensation.
ECHR Press Release with the summary: Grand Chamber judgment Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan – Armenian refugee’s lack of access to property