Azerbaijan, Baku / Trend , corr A.Gasimova /
Trend's exclusive interview with Bernhard Clasen, Co-chair of the International Working Group (IWG) for Missing Persons, POWs and Released Prisoners of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Question: According to data provided by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of Azerbaijan, there are 4,566 missing people in the country, while the International Committee of the Red Cross indicates their number as 4,132. What is the reason for such a difference in these figures? How many missing people are you tracing within your current work with Azerbaijani and Armenia?
Answer: Our group is a small group. We are three co-chairs, and three co-ordinators on the spot. Therefore we concentrate our tracing work on a small number of missing persons, about 200 persons. So it is difficult for us to say, what the reason for such a difference is.
Question: How successfully does the IWG co-operate with the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of Azerbaijan and Armenia? Do you have disagreements on any issue?
Answer: Our group has a good working relationship with the State Commissions. We have one common goal: to help those who are prisoners of war and to trace missing persons in the region. On this matter there is complete understanding between our NGO and the State Commissions on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons.
At least 13 former POWs in Azerbaijan had been given high sentences after they had been freed by the Armenian side. We think, these people are traumatized by the events and require medical and psychological assistance. We feel that they should be freed.
Question: Do you plan to hold a regular meeting of state commissions of Azerbaijan and Armenia on prisoners of war and missing people? What is the reason for such a meeting and what topics may be included in the agenda?
Answer: We did organize a meeting between the state commissions of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Tbilisi in 2005. At the moment we do not anticipate such a meeting. However, we are always ready to co-operate with the parties to the conflict. And if the parties to the conflict requested us to organize such a meeting again, of course we would do our best in ensure such a meeting takes place on neutral territory.
Question: What role can a report on missing people in South Caucasus countries by a PACE co-rapporteur, Leo Platvoet, play in the resolution of a problem with missing people in the region of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Answer: I think the involvement of the international community in humanitarian topics in the region of the Karabakh conflict is very important. The armed conflict had caused so much human suffering that international solidarity with the victims of the conflict is important. Raising the awareness for the problem of missing persons of the Karabakh conflict and other results of the armed conflict on the international level is important. In this aspect the work of PACE rapporteur Platvoet is very important. But now a second step needs to be taken: I think the international community is ready to assist the parties to the conflict in resolving the humanitarian problems, which were caused by the conflict. Now it is up to the parties of the conflict to define what help is necessary from the international community in tackling these humanitarian problems.
Question: Do you feel the necessity to produce a regular report on the situation in the region? Do the IWG leaders plan to visit the region?
Answer: I am in favor of everything which on the international level raises the awareness for the humanitarian tragedy in the region of the Karabakh conflict. In this regard a regular report on the situation in the region might be helpful.
We plan to be in the region in May.