US lawmakers demand answers on Armenian POWs from Azerbaijani Ambassador

Central Valley, CA Congressman Jim Costa was joined by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo(CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Jackie Speier(CA) and Frank Pallone Jr.(NJ) in calling on Azerbaijani Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov to outline “specific steps you are taking to ensure the release of Armenian hostages and how the Azerbaijani authorities are working to ensure adherence to the November 9 agreement.”

In their March 19th letter, the U.S. Representatives noted that “we’ve heard reports that Azerbaijan continues to detain an estimated 200 Armenian prisoners over 100 days after the end of the conflict. Estimates also suggest that more than ten percent of detainees were civilians. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch has released findings of mistreatment, torture, and even extrajudicial executions of ethnic Armenian prisoners by Azerbaijani military forces. In light of these events, the swift and safe return of these individuals has become a pressing humanitarian concern and of critical importance to ensuring a peaceful postwar future in the region.”

The full text of the letter is provided below:

Dear Ambassador Suleymanov,

We write to express our concern over Azerbaijan’s continued detention of ethnic Armenians as prisoners of war following last year’s conflict between and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno region. Despite the cessation of open hostilities and in accordance with signed peace agreements between the two countries, we write to urge you to take action to ensure the immediate return of all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians.

According to the tripartite statement signed between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia on November 9, 2020, all parties agreed to the exchange of prisoners of war, hostages, and other detainees, as well as the return of remains to their country of origin. Furthermore, under the third Geneva Convention, which Azerbaijan has signed, international law requires the release of prisoners of war and captured civilians after the termination of hostilities, as well as humane treatment of all detainees.

Despite these commitments, we’ve heard reports that Azerbaijan continues to detain an estimated 200 Armenian prisoners over 100 days after the end of the conflict. Estimates also suggest that more than ten percent of detainees were civilians. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch has released findings of mistreatment, torture, and even extrajudicial executions of ethnic Armenian prisoners by Azerbaijani military forces. In light of these events, the swift and safe return of these individuals has become a pressing humanitarian concern and of critical importance to ensuring a peaceful postwar future in the region.

We would appreciate hearing directly from you about the specific steps you are taking to ensure the release of Armenian hostages and how the Azerbaijani authorities are working to ensure adherence to the November 9 agreement. We look forward to your response.

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