PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) Ombudsman Ruben Melikyan visited Rhode Island on March 10, where the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island (ANC-RI) organized meetings with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, and R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
Melikyan’s first meeting of the day was with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who hosted him in her office at the Rhode Island State House. Ombudsman Melikyan was joined by ANC-RI Chair Ani Haroian and ANC-RI member Steve Elmasian. The main purpose of the meeting was to share the report Melikyan had compiled on the atrocities committed by Azerbaijan on the Artsakh population during the 2016 April War.
Ombudsman Melikyan outlined the human rights abuses committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, including the torture, mutilation, and execution of Armenian soldiers and civilians along the Artsakh Line of Contact (LoC). His report was well received by Sec. Gorbea, who is looking into submitting it for the public record in Rhode Island. Gorbea told Melikyan that she is very informed on Armenian issues and takes part in the R.I. community’s commemorative events. Gorbea also discussed her position as the record keeper of the state and pledged to do her part to promote awareness regarding the struggle over the Republic of Artsakh.
Melikyan then met with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s District Chief of Staff George Carvalho, and Congressman Jim Langevin’s District Chief of Staff Seth Klaimann, as both elected officials were unable to make it back to their local offices due to ongoing business in Washington D.C.
Melikyan shared his private report, which has extensive data on Azerbaijani war crimes and human rights violations against the civilian and military populations of Artsakh during the April War. He also explained how the lack of international recognition hurts Nagorno-Karabagh. Both chiefs of staff were given a copy of the Ombudsman’s public report and promised to brief their member of Congress on the shocking details.
Melikyan’s final visit was with Congressman David Cicilline, who also introduced the Artsakh Ombudsman at the Rhode Island Community Briefing which followed their meeting. Congressman Cicilline agreed to send a letter to the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, as well as to ask the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce, for a hearing on the situation in Artsakh.
During his community briefing at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ombudsman Melikyan shared that there are 17 United Nation member states with smaller populations than Artsakh, that security is the main issue identified in both 2015 and 2016 opinion polls in Artsakh, and that he is working on a follow-up report on the 2016 Azeri atrocities, which will focus on a legal assessment of the situation. Melikyan also shared that the Azerbaijani ceasefire violations occur daily and result in a growing number of casualties—usually young soldiers who are protecting their homeland.
Ombudsman Melikyan raised an issue, which the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has also been vocal in publicizing—the lack of condemnation of Azerbaijan human rights atrocities and continued ceasefire violations by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group. The OSCE Minsk group’s policy of refusing to call out Azerbaijani aggression only emboldens Azerbaijan to continue its attacks against the Armenian side. The ANCA will continue to rail against this artificial evenhandedness with the interim U.S. Co-Chair of the OSCEs Minsk Group for Nagorno-Karabakh, Amb. Richard Hoagland.
Melikyan left Rhode Island on Saturday morning and traveled south to continue his meetings and interviews in New York and Washington, before returning to Artsakh on March 18.