No provocation can disrupt the process of prisoner exchange, Armenia’s Ombudsman says

No provocation of armed clashes can be a reason for the disruption or suspension of the most important humanitarian processes, particularly the return of prisoners of and civilian captives and the exchange of bodies, ’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan said in a statement.

He called on international organizations to ensure continuity and acceleration of such a humanitarian mission and to exclude any obstacles to its normal course.

Below is the full text of the statement:

1. Late last night, Azerbaijani media sources reported that military fighting had resumed between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces near the village of Togh in Hadrut Province (Azerbaijani: village of Aghdam (Hakaku) in the Khojavend District). Azerbaijani media sources also reported about casualties on both sides. The same information was later disseminated by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.

2. Immediately after the publication of this news, I applied to the Ministry of Defense of Armenia and the Defense Army of with urgent official inquiries. Both agencies strongly denied the information, assuring that the ceasefire regime is strictly observed, and military units have not taken part in any operation in the area. They also assured that no emergency incidents were reported in connection with the units of the Defense Army.

3. Furthermore, monitoring of the Human Rights Defender’s Office has revealed that at around 12:45pm, on December 28 the Iranian “MiranPress” telegram channel, citing its sources, reported that the incident in the Hadrut region had not taken place between Artsakh’s and Azerbaijani armed forces. Rather the Azerbaijani servicemen shot at each other, which resulted in three victims.

4. In the capacity of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, I expressly emphasize that a crucial humanitarian process is currently under way with regards to human rights protection. This especially refers to the exchange of bodies of killed persons and the return of prisoners of war and civilian captives.

5. I specifically warn that any provocation or statement that leads to an armed conflict in the post-war period cannot disrupt the process of returning war prisoners and civilian captives and exchanging bodies.

6. I recall that as a baseline fact, it should be taken as a basis that provisions of the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020, regarding the complete ceasefire and the cessation of all hostilities, the parties undertook to maintain, which has not been disputed by any party’s authority.

7. Therefore, any factor, including periodically published untrue information on armed conflicts by the Azerbaijani sources or any provocation of armed conflict cannot be a reason for the disruption or suspension of the most important humanitarian process, particularly in connection with the return of war prisoners and civilian captives and the exchange of bodies.

8. Hence, I call upon the international community and specifically international bodies with human rights protection mandate, to pay scrupulous attention to the current situation in order to ensure continuity and acceleration of such a humanitarian mission as well as to exclude any obstacles to its normal course.

9. This statement will be sent to competent international bodies with my separate signature.

10. Issues related to the human rights and humanitarian law protection in the post-war period will continue to be in immediate attention of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender.

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