Artak Beglaryan addressed a talk at the Council of Europe on the challenges of human rights protection in de facto states
The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Artak Beglaryan, on September 30, with the initiative and support of the Armenian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, participated in the event on human rights protection in de facto states organized at the PACE, Strasbourg.
A.Beglaryan and former chairperson of the French Delegation to the PACE René Rouquet had talks on the topic. Number of delegates of the PACE, diplomats, as well as experts and Council of Europe officials were present at the event.
The full text of the Ombudsman is given below:
“Dear colleagues, dear friends,
I thank to the Armenian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and personally Mr. Ruben Rubinian, the head of delegation, for providing this opportunity to speak about human rights in de facto states and the role of the Council of Europe. It is an honor to share this panel also with Mr Rouguet, who understands really well the topic of our today’s discussion. I think this is the first time that the authentic voice of Artsakh will be heard within the Parliamentary Assembly. So, this event is making history…
Let me start by quoting the Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
So, human rights are declared universal, but what about the reality?
I would prefer to respond with the mouth of former Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, who in 2014, as a particular challenge to the almost 3 million people living in conflict zones in Europe, highlighted in his report that “Protecting the human rights of people living in unresolved conflict zones is often not the first priority of the international community when coping with the difficulties of trying to settle these conflicts”. It was an important confession, because any conflict settlement should be aimed, first and foremost, at human rights protection.
However, as usual, here too the reality is in stark contrast with wishes and declarations. The reality is that in the area of the Council of Europe, millions of people don’t have proper access to international human rights protection bodies and programs, as well as international aid and development. They are the people of living in de-facto states, which have been formed as results of conflicts, but have not been formally recognized by the international community.
To understand the extent of the issue, it is worthwhile to mention that 17% of cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights relate to these unresolved conflict areas. I think the percentage will grow further, unless the situation changes positively.
Modifying George Orwell’s truth, it turns out that all the people are equal, but some of them are less equal…
Why are not “less equal” people equal to “more equal” people?
The short answer has 2 parts:
Realizing this reality, in 2018 the Assembly adopted its Resolution 2240 where it reaffirmed the legal obligations on Council of Europe member States to co-operate fully and in good faith with international human rights monitoring mechanisms, including in terms of access to conflict zones.
In addition, Secretary General Jagland in his 2019 report referred again to that challenge and presented his ideas of addressing it. In particular, he proposed that the “Commissioner for Human Rights should have a full, free and unrestricted access to all unresolved conflict zones, at any time, and by use of any possible and secure means of access”. However, there is no progress so far. It is not hard to guess the reasons…
Why do some member states oppose greater transparency when it comes to de facto states?
One of their fears is the risk of legitimization of authorities of de facto states. But, for instance, Resolution 2240 clearly states that visits to those territories and contacts with authorities do not constitute and should not be presented as recognition of those authorities’ legitimacy under international law. Such an approach, engagement without recognition, is widely and successfully used by the international community, for example, when interacting with the Palestinian Authorities and somewhat Kosovo. So, this fear is not very substantiated.
But more importantly, their goal is to maintain maximum isolation of the de facto states to prevent international contacts, to hinder their democratic, social and economic development, as well as, to hide massive human rights violations and restrictions exercised by those member states.
What can move the process forward?
In statutory terms, the Council of Europe has the mandate and power to make genuine political and diplomatic pressure on member states to respect their commitments and fully cooperate to ensure full, free and unrestricted access to conflict zones. But, in practical terms, when it comes to action, many member states are reluctant to support enforcement of those obligations.
For instance, the only obstacle for the Human Rights Commissioner’s visit to Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan’s opposition to such visits. It is important to stress that in terms of enabling physical access to unresolved conflict areas, the political will and consent of authorities of that de facto state is more relevant than of the member state. In that sense, the authorities of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh have stated that they are ready to fully cooperate with all relevant international organizations, including their human rights monitoring mechanisms. Perhaps it is the time for independent human rights institutions to put human rights protection before diplomatic and political expediency.
What should the international community do in de facto states?
I believe that the international community should not only monitor the human rights protection situation in de facto states but also contribute to its continuous improvement. Monitoring without contribution will be like to take school exams without continuous teaching, which cannot ensure efficiency.
I would divide the monitoring and contribution process into three dimensions: local, regional and international.
Though the Karabakh case is unique, but other de facto states share some similarities with us in that sense.
Does the isolation mean the end of life in de facto states?
Lack of international recognition should have minimal impact on human rights protection, otherwise international organizations cannot have the absolute right to talk on human rights and its universality principle.
Isolation means only more struggle, more efforts and more reasons to value human rights, relying on your own potential. But, for sure, the life continues and develops there, even if they are perceived as “grey zones” for outsiders who don’t want to visit there.
However, regardless of that isolation, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has taken responsibility to participate in international life and to use the international standards to develop a stronger democracy, better protection of human rights and strengthening the rule of law. Karabakh has unilaterally joined and incorporated into its legal system a number of international human rights treaties, including:
Moreover, our Republic feels accountable to the international community and recently submitted its initial voluntary periodic report on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the UN. Nagorno-Karabakh also prepared its national review on implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Developments Goals. It means that we are open to cooperation and international monitoring mechanisms.
To sum up, the best way of exploring any country is to visit there. So, I would invite all of you to visit Karabakh to see with your own eyes the life, challenges and successes we have, to realize that all the people should be really equal, all the people deserve human rights protection and peace everywhere, whether they live in Strasbourg or in Karabakh.”
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