The European Court Asserts Its Jurisdiction over the Armenian Occupied Areas of Azerbaijan: The Chiragov Case

23 July, 2015

In a judgment of significance, with political repercussions, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 16 June 2015 decided in Chiragov v Armenia that Armenia exercised effective control over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas (captured during the 1992 conflict with Azerbaijan) and that Armenia thus bore responsibility under the European Human Rights Convention for human rights violations.

The Court came to its conclusion in light of the evidence that Armenia had long been militarily involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and that Armenia’s military support continued to be decisive for control over the territories in question. The Court concluded that Armenia and the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” were highly integrated in virtually all important matters and that the latter continued to survive by virtue of the military, political, financial and other support given to it by Armenia.

Although this was an individual application by a group of displaced Azerbaijani nationals, it was in essence regarded as an inter-State matter (the Government of Azerbaijan intervened) and thus of substantial import. There are over one thousand applications pending concerning persons displaced in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These will now proceed.

Malcolm Shaw QC appeared for the Government of Azerbaijan.