Free ALL Armenian POWs and hostages held illegally in Azerbaijan

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To: UN Secretary-General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe Secretary General, Director of OSCE ODIHR, OSCE Secretary General, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

We call upon the peaceful citizens of the world, who defend universal human rights and the principles of justice, to sign the present petition to:

●        Demand the immediate and unconditional release of ALL Armenian POWs and captives held unlawfully in Azerbaijan after the official ceasefire.

●        Condemn Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev for war crimes.

●        Impose sanctions against Azerbaijan for breaking UN legislation on Human Rights, The Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War,  and The European Convention on Human Rights [1].

1. Torture is illegal

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment, and The European Convention on Human Rights prohibit torture. However, the latest AD HOC Report of January 2021 [2] by the Human  Rights Defender of Armenia announced numerous cases of barbaric treatment of Armenian civilians and soldiers in captivity in Azerbaijan, including:

●        beating POWs, causing mental trauma and physical injuries;

●        humiliation and debasement of captives to make false statements;

●        physical torture of captives resulting in fatalities.

2. It is illegal to hold POWs after ceasefire agreement

Several months since the trilateral Ceasefire Statement [3] of 9 November 2020 - between Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia - hundreds of Armenian POWs have not been released. Azerbaijani forces continue taking new military and civilian captives, both men and women, in the post-war Nagorno-Karabakh region. Captured civilians and soldiers were beheaded after the Ceasefire, and those carrying out those heinous acts have been glorified by the Azerbaijani state. President Aliyev openly supports and encourages hatred and violence towards Armenians through his public speeches and state-sponsored propaganda including education system. His irresponsible conduct jeopardises any prospect of peace in the wider region [4].

By refusing to free Armenian captives, the Azerbaijani regime violates the third Geneva Convention which provides legal framework for POWs against torture and inhumane treatment. The convention states that “POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking part in hostilities,” and that “they must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities” [5]. Aliyev's government has also violated Article 8 of the trilateral Ceasefire Statement concerning the return of POWs.

3. How many ethnic Armenian POWs and captives are held in Azerbaijan?

As of the beginning of february, 228 cases have been reported to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by Yegishe Kirakosyan, the Representative of Armenia, to the ECtHR. Additionally, human rights lawyers Siranush Sahakyan and Artak Zeynalyan have filed 95 individual cases on behalf of the captives’ families at the ECtHR. The Court has unequivocally and universally accepted these complaints and ordered interim measures to protect the lives of Armenian captives whose lives are at immediate risk. Azerbaijan has failed to comply with the ECtHR order, and has refused to provide accurate and complete information.

In December 57 POWs were release, and 5 more POWs have been released today, today, the 28 January 2021.The number of captives continues rising and currently at least 230 POWs and further captives have been identified by the Armenian side. 

4. Sanction Azerbaijan for breaking international laws and ethnic cleansing

By concealing the exact number of Armenian captives, the Azerbaijani government retains them for political manipulation to achieve more concessions from the Armenia, that lost the control of 75% of Nagorno-Karabakh. If European and international lawmakers fail to condemn the Azerbaijani government for violating international laws, killings, kidnappings, and terrorising indigenous Armenians in the remaining 25% of Nagorno-Karabakh will continue until they all perish or flee from the region. The agenda of ethnic cleansing of Armenians by Aliyev’s regime persists in front of the eyes of the ‘free, democratic’ world, that watches but ignores, hears but refuses to act.

Today, if the ethnic cleansing of Armenians is carried out in Nagorno-Karabakh, it will not extend to the Republic of Armenia tomorrow. President Aliyev is preparing for the next military aggression: Turkish and Azerbaijani joint military exercises are scheduled for February in Turkey’s Kars region, on the Western border of Armenia, "the intensity of these exercises will be increased from now on", Aliyev openly announced his expansionist strategy [6].

5. Condemn Aliyev for war crimes

The ECtHR has confirmed that the civilian Maral Najarian has been imprisoned in Baku since 10 November 2020, after the trilateral Ceasefire. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied access to Armenian hostages, including to Maral and other female captives. Due to the overwhelming evidence of heinous abuse of Armenian captives, the health of Maral and other female hostages is deeply concerning. Inhumane treatment of POWs and captives is a gross violation of international laws by Azerbaijani regime. War crimes perpetrated by Aliyev must be condemned [7].

As peace-loving citizens of the world, we urge you to take action now!

Human lives matter. Every day, every hour, every minute, and every second counts. Tomorrow will be too late. Act today to release MARAL and ALL ARMENIAN POWs AND CAPTIVES, victims of unlawful torture, brutal mental and physical abuse [8].

January 28, 2021