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.
Five months after the trilateral Ceasefire Statement of 9 November 2020  by the Russian, Azerbaijani, and Armenian Heads of State, over 200 Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) have not been released. Moreover, the Azerbaijani forces continue taking new military and civilian captives, both men and women, in the post-war Nagorno-Karabakh region .
By refusing to free the Armenian captives, the Azerbaijani regime grossly violates the III Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949. The Convention particularly 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”. Aliyev's government also violates Article 8 of the trilateral Ceasefire Statement of November 9 concerning the return of POWs.
The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment, and the European Convention on Human Rights prohibit torture altogether. The latest Ad Hoc Report by the Human Rights Defender of Armenia of January 2021  revealed numerous cases of brutal treatment of Armenian civilians and soldiers in captivity in Azerbaijan, which included:
●beating the POWs, causing mental trauma and physical injuries,
●humiliation and debasement of captives to induce false statements,
●physical torture of captives resulting in death.
At the beginning of April 2021, no less than 230 cases were reported to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by Yegishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s representative to the Court. Additionally, human rights lawyers Siranush Sahakyan and Artak Zeynalyan have filed over 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 the Armenian captives whose lives are at immediate risk. The Azerbaijani authorities have failed to comply with the ECtHR ruling and have refused to provide accurate information on the condition and the number of Armenian POWs in captivity.
Several Armenian POWs held in Azerbaijan, were reportedly murdered , one of them was only 18-year-old Eric Mkhitaryan, missing since October 2020. In November, a video of Eric captured and abused by Azeri forces was released on social media. His remains were returned in December to Armenia, and identified only at the beginning of April 2021. Therefore, it is likely that the true number of Armenian POWs illegally held or murdered by Alyiev's regime will never be known.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been repeatedly denied access to Armenian POWs, and fully report on their health and detention conditions back to families. The inhumane treatment of POWs and captives is a gross violation of the international law by the Azerbaijani regime and the overwhelming evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Aliyev’s regime must be condemned by international organisations .
By concealing the exact number of Armenian captives, the Azerbaijani government retains them for political manipulation to achieve more concessions from Armenia, which has lost the control over 75% of Nagorno-Karabakh territories. If European and international lawmakers fail to condemn the Azerbaijani government for violating the international law, the killings, kidnappings, and terrorising of the indigenous Armenians in the remaining 25% of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In an announcement on 22 April 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on Azerbaijan to release Armenian POWs and other captives 'without delay' .
President Aliyev openly supports and encourages hatred and violence towards Armenians through his public speeches and state-sponsored propaganda, such as the opening of the ethnic-hatred 'trophy park' in Baku, which is reminiscent of a neo-Nazi camp such as Auschwitz. Former US Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, called the park "Racist, degrading, indeed, redolent of genocidal intent’. Aliyev’s irresponsible conduct jeopardises any prospect of peace in the wider region .
Human lives matter. Every day, every hour, every minute, and every second counts. Tomorrow will be too late. Act today to release ALL ARMENIAN POWs and CAPTIVES, victims of unlawful torture, barbaric mental and physical abuse .
British Armenian humanitarian group
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