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Hayk Makiyan

Ani Sargsyan

Yerevan: Relatives of Artsakh 2020 War “Missing” Demand Action

Relatives of those still listed as missing because of the 2020 Karabakh war gathered outside the Prosecutor General’s Office in Yerevan, demanding that authorities increase efforts to find out what happened to their loved ones.

They also demand that those officials who aren’t working towards this end be held accountable.

The Armenian government lists 175 soldiers and twenty civilians as still missing.

Arsen Ghukasyan, whose brother Arman died in the war, is still looking for his nephew Sargis, who was a conscript soldier during the war. Ghukasyan told Hetq that the government’s investigative body has no information about Sargis.

"The Investigative Committee does not investigate the cases, and when you want to get information, it says that they are pre-investigation secrets. No parent of a missing person wants information that is a state or military secret, they are only interested in the fate of their own sons,” says Arsen Ghukasyan.

Ghukasyan told Hetq that he found his brother’s body in Jabrayil and is still searching for Sargis.

Nazik Shahbazyan is still looking for her son Samvel. She told Hetq that she last spoke with Samvel on October 12, 2020. Eleven days later she tried to phone Samvel again and was surprised when an Azerbaijani soldier responded.

“We talked to them. They were in contact with us for three days, at the same phone number. They said he was a prisoner. They called us, we called them. The conversation was recorded, translated, and submitted to the Red Cross and lawyer Artak Zeynalyan to file an appeal to the European Court,” Shahbazyan says.

On January 6, 2021, Shahbazyan came across a picture of her son on a Telegram channel. The picture didn’t clarify whether Samvel was dead or not,

"All the boys in his squad were found dead. If he was dead, they should have found him with them,” she says, adding Samvel was taken prisoner after being wounded.

"No agency has informed me, but I assume that if the boys were found and my son was dead, he would have been found. Immediately after the end of the war, I gave a DNA sample. So far there has been no match. We have been to all the morgues. We have given the photos to everyone. He had tattoos that any doctor can recognize.”

Nazik Shahbazyan said there are parents who couldn’t go to Artsakh to find out what happened to their sons.

"Until recently, my boy was on the list of potential prisoners. Now, he’s been transferred to the list of missing persons. I don't know the reason for that transfer. I can't contact the investigators in any way," Shahbazyan says.

Vladik Harutyunyan is still looking for his son Garegin who fought in the war as a volunteer. The Harutyunyans lived in Shushi when the war broke out.

"After the war and the loss of my son, I visited a number of places in Karabakh, but my searches did not yield results. After, I decided to come to Armenia. There was a group of older parents here. We applied to the departments a lot. There was hope that we could achieve something, but in vain. They don't answer any of our questions," says Harutyunyan.

Nazik Hovakimyan is still looking for her nephew Artashes Sayadyan.

“Artashes was a conscript soldier who served in Jabrayil. We never heard from him after September 25, 2020,” she says, adding that the boy’s mother, who lives abroad, came to Armenia twice for information about her son.

Harutyun Harutyunyan is the father of missing conscript soldier Valodya.

Harutyunyan says his son served in a tank unit and last called home on October 6, 2020 to say all was fine. After the war, Harutyunyan went to Artsakh to find out what happened to his son.

"I went to bring back something of him. I went to the military unit, the leadership had changed. There were almost no people in the military unit. Officers gave me information that a tank was hit in such and such an area. The boy and his two friends were killed. I presented the information to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, so that they would know exactly where to go. I waited for about one week to go with them to that place. It didn't work. I came back, but I asked them to bring me a handful of ashes. Some time passed, the EMS guys called and checked. They said that they went to the tank and didn't find any remains or bones."  

In November 2022, an interdepartmental commission dealing with the issues of captives, missing persons, and forcibly disappeared persons was established in Armenia,

Five representatives of parents of the missing are in the commission. Harutyun Harutyunyan is one of them.

"We managed to get several parents on that committee, so that the work would be more efficient, so that the concerns of parents would be presented correctly. The committee isn’t doing anything. It’s all state secrets, they argue. As a result, our missing sons remain missing," says Harutyunyan.

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