Azerbaijani FM’s statement on Armenian POWs a violation of international humanitarian law – Ombudsman

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister’s statement on Armenian prisoners of war is a violation of international humanitarian law, Armenian Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan says, stressing the need to take decisive measures for the release and return of all captives.

On May 11, 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan stated: “The incidents related to the illegal entry of Armenian servicemen into the territory of Azerbaijan at the end of November last year, the death and wounding of Azerbaijani servicemen in December are a war crime committed against Azerbaijan. As a result of the operations carried out by the Azerbaijani special services, some of the Armenian servicemen who carried out provocative and subversive operations were killed and some were arrested. Investigations into the incidents are under way.”

Considering that the issue concerns the rights of Armenian captives (and prisoners of war), the Human Rights Defender of states that the above-mentioned statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan grossly violate the international humanitarian law, including human rights law.

“The reality is that there is an ongoing, open armed conflict. From the point of view of international [humanitarian] law, this means that regardless of whether or not they were taken captive (prisoners of war) after the November 9, 2020 tripartite declaration, they are prisoners of war, captives by legal status; they should be released immediately, without preconditions,” Arman Tatoyan says.

According to him, “Azerbaijan is artificially delaying the issue by openly abusing legal processes, presenting them as terrorists and using detention as punishment, in violation of international rules.”

“Meanwhile, this is a universal requirement for an international action subject to automatic application. The opposite grossly violates international human rights requirements and the international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Convention. The release and return of prisoners should be considered solely in the context of human rights and humanitarian processes,” the Ombudsman emphasizes.

The Human Rights Defender’s monitoring, as well as the results of the investigation of the complaints received continuously confirm that the Azerbaijani authorities, in gross violation of international requirements, artificially delay the release of the Armenian captives, and deliberately do not disclose the actual number of prisoners.

With this policy, they are violating the rights of prisoners, causing mental sufferings to the families of the captives and the missing persons, and causing tension in the Armenian society.

“The absolute urgency with respect to the issue of the release and return of captives must be considered in the context of the policy of hate speech and Armenophobia by Azerbaijani authorities,” the Ombudsman says.

Therefore, he notes, taking into account the humanitarian mandates of international bodies and their role in human rights (the priority of the right to life) protection, the Human Rights Defender of Armenia draws their attention to the mentioned statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan violating the international humanitarian law, including human rights law, and thus raising the urgent need to take decisive measures for the release and return of all captives.

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