Help Facilitate Prompt Release and Repatriation of Armenian POWs from Azerbaijan

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On November 10, 2020, a trilateral agreement was signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, thus ending the hostilities that Azerbaijan (backed by Turkey and radical Islamist groups deployed from Syria) has unleashed on the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).  As a result of this unprovoked aggression, approximately 150,000 ethnic Armenians living in Artsakh were displaced, which left them fending for their lives and livelihood, amidst a global pandemic and the coming severe winter conditions. Several hundred soldiers and civilians were captured by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

Point 8 of this agreement reads as follows: "The Parties shall exchange prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons, and dead bodies". No specification on terms and time-frames were further mentioned, yet it can be inferred that the exchange ought to be organized as urgently as possible.

Several weeks have passed and it is quite evident that Azerbaijan is continuously halting this process, and providing virtually no reports, thus manipulating the issue to increase, to the extent possible, tensions within Armenian society and to magnify the anguish of relatives.

The exchange of the bodies of the fallen soldiers is also not as adequately organized and implemented, as it could have been. Azerbaijan does not cooperate with the international humanitarian organizations and report any data about this. The International Committee of the Red Cross, that is mediating the humanitarian efforts, has stated repeatedly the importance and urgency of the situation created and urged the sides to comply with the international law. Meanwhile, Armenia has stayed faithful to the singed agreement and has returned the regions of Kelbajar, Lachin and Aghdam.

Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan has reported of at least eighty Armenian prisoners of war and thirty citizens being held by Azerbaijani authorities.

!!! Fully documented evidence of war crimes by the Azeri Government from 27.9 - 10.11.2020

According to the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which the civilized world has adopted, prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited and will be regarded as a serious breach of the Convention. Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. 

Multiple videos and images have been circulating the internet depicting the inhumane treatment of the captured Armenian war prisoners by the Azerbaijani Armed forces. They have been recorder and fact-checked by the local authorities, as well as international organizations like Human Rights Watch. After completion of the military activities, the torture and inhuman treatment of the Armenian prisoners of war and captives by Azerbaijani military forces have taken a new spin: the number and volume, as well as the level of cruelty, have significantly increased. It is obvious that those who commit the torture and cruelties, as well as those who take videos, are the representatives of the Azerbaijani military forces, whose activities are endorsed by their leadership. 

The HRW reports:

“The videos depict Azerbaijani captors variously slapping, kicking, and prodding Armenian POWs, and compelling them, under obvious duress and with the apparent intent to humiliate, to kiss the Azerbaijani flag, praise Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, swear at Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and declare that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan. In most of the videos, the captors’ faces are visible, suggesting that they did not fear being held accountable".

International humanitarian law, or the law of armed conflict, requires parties to an international armed conflict to treat POWs humanely in all circumstances. Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour. Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in violation of: Rome Statute - Article 8(2)(a)(ii) and (iii), and (b)(vi); IMT Charter (Nuremberg) - Article 6(b); First Geneva Convention - Article 50; Second Geneva Convention - Article 51; Third Geneva Convention - Article 12, 13, and 130; Fourth Geneva Convention - Article 32 and 147; Protocol I to the Geneva Convention - Article 75(2); Protocol II to the Geneva Convention - Article 4(2)(a) and (e); and/or UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) - Article 2.

According to Article 118 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities. 40 POWs in requests filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for interim measures. The court granted all the requests on behalf of individual POWs to instruct the Azerbaijan government to provide information on the POWs.

Yet, there are still at least eighty Armenian prisoners of war and thirty citizens held captive in Azerbaijan. 

This petition urges international organizations to accelerate and facilitate the return of our captives to Armenia. Every delay encourages Azerbaijan to commit more atrocities and violence around the world.

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