Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

The situation of the right of missing persons’ families to receive information regarding their relatives’ fate, whereabouts, and circumstances of disappearance, remains worrisome.

August 30, 2022

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August 30 is the International Day of Missing Persons.

 

For years on end, we have pursued proper implementation of the state’s obligations pertaining to the rights of missing persons and their families, and  with the purpose of protecting their rights, we initiated the Draft Law on Missing Persons more than 15 years ago. The draft law, however, has still not been adopted. The state is using various legal acts to give sporadic solutions, yet the problems can get complex solutions only with the adoption of the law.

 

Problems related to the rights of missing persons and their families emerged back during the first Artsakh war. 

 

Now that Armenia has yet once again faced problems of hundreds of missing persons, it is extremely important to address the problems of missing persons and their families with full responsibility; adoption of the main law is urgent for the solution and regulation of those problems.

 

Back in 2007, PACE adopted Resolution 1553 (2007) on missing persons and their family members, and Armenia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has undertaken an obligation to implement PACE resolutions and recommendations. PACE Rapporteur Leo Platvoet mentioned in his report that the draft law developed by HCA Vanadzor could become a good basis for the development of RA legislation on missing persons. Nonetheless, it did not become an impetus for the state to implement its obligations towards missing persons at the legislative level. 

 

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office conducted a study of problems of persons missing as a result of the 44-day war and their families between September 27 and November 9, 2020, considering the State’s obligation to ensure the life, health and safety of its citizens and to raise public awareness about them. The results of the aforementioned study are presented in the report “Situation of the rights of persons missing as a result of the 44-day hostilities of 2020, and their family members”.  

 

In addition to statistical data, the report addresses legislation on the rights of missing persons and their families, legislative gaps, the problems those families faced, and the state's obligations with respect to missing persons and their families.

 

The situation of the right of missing persons’ families to receive information regarding their relatives’ fate, whereabouts, and circumstances of disappearance, remains worrisome.  Besides the problem relating to the right to receive information, families face a number of other problems, in particular, lack of legal status, social, healthcare, psychological support, etc. 

 

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross data of August 2022, 303 persons are still considered missing as a result of the 44-day war; according to the RA state authorities, as of 21.03.2022, the whereabouts of 187 servicemen and 21 civilians  are unknown. The discrepancy of the published numbers is related to the identification process.

 

Our studies also show that families have concerns with respect to the identification process: first, it is not clear which authority performs this function, families get information from various bodies. During conversations with us, the families also mentioned that for months on end there was no DNA sample match, however, when applying to court in order to be included in any social support action, they were told that there was a match, which generates distrust for the process. Most of them, worrying that the state might terminate the search for their relative, stopped their participation in that process.

 

The report once again addresses the situation of the rights of missing persons and their families, and implementation of the Republic of Armenia obligations towards them, and we also presented  state authorities and international organizations with recommendations aimed at solving the problems of missing persons and their families.

 

Based on this information, HCAV addressed a letter to Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić regarding the fate, whereabouts and circumstances of disappearance of missing persons, as well as problems of their families. We noted in the letter that it is urgent to organize a visit of PACE to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh to assess implementation by the conflicting countries of the PACE Resolution 1553 (2007) on the rights of missing persons and their family members adopted on 24 May 2007, how the countries address the approaches enshrined in the resolution, and examine the liability of the conflicting sides, which can promote human rights and contribute to de-escalation of the conflict in the future.

 

In response, we were informed that Paul Gavan, PACE Rapporteur on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, was in Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2021 and summed up the results of his visits in a report, based on which PACE Resolution 2391 (2021) regarding the humanitarian consequences of the conflict was adopted. Following this, HCAV addressed a letter to PACE Rapporteur on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons to pursue execution of the resolution, and expressed willingness to support implementation of the activities enshrined in the resolution.  

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