Azerbaijani Ombudsperson responds to HRW on allegations of mistreatment of Armenian POWs (UPDATE)

Details added: the first version posted on 14:22

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Mar.24

Trend:

The recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the mistreatment of Armenian prisoners of war (PОWs) held in Azerbaijan reflects a biased approach and misleads the international community, the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) of Azerbaijan, Sabina Aliyeva said, Trend reports on Mar.24.

Aliyeva made the remark commenting on the allegations of mistreatment of the Armenian PОWs in HRW's report dated March 19, 2021.

The Ombudsperson stressed that in any report on sensitive topics such as conflicts, their consequences, PОWs, alleged violations of international humanitarian law, etc., the principle of objectivity must be observed, and in order to avoid a one-sided position, only verified facts and well-founded arguments should be used.

“Reference should be also made to materials and facts from reliable sources, such as independent international and local human rights organizations. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen these principles in the HRW report. On the contrary, we continue to witness double standards, distortion of truth and facts,” she noted. “We expect HRW to investigate and interrogate former Azerbaijani POWs who can provide detailed information on their mistreatment. At least before publishing its reports, HRW could review our report on the treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war and hostages who were in Armenian captivity.”

The report of the Ombudsperson contained testimonies about the treatment of the released Azerbaijani prisoners and hostages, which were given by these persons themselves. For example, during a conversation personally conducted by Aliyeva, one of the former prisoners of war said that he had been hit with a sharp metal rod, another said that a current had been passed through him, and the third that he had been repeatedly burned with a lighter.

According to her, at a face-to-face meeting with her, one of the released Azerbaijani POWs said that during the Second Karabakh War (from late Sept. through early Nov.2020) he was heavily wounded in the left leg and right eye as a result of a large-caliber weapon shot. After being captivated, the bleeding organs of the soldier were sutured by an Armenian doctor for about 3 hours without using pain relievers or other anesthetics to stop the bleeding. Besides, the nurses in the hospital, injecting him with medical alcohol, demanded to repeat what they said, and if the prisoner refused to do so, they subjected him to even more torture and cruel treatment.

Along with the above, Azerbaijani prisoners weren’t given the opportunity to communicate with family members and relatives, reminded Aliyeva.

“The above are just some of the facts that we would like to bring to the attention of HRW. More details can be found in our recent report on the mistreatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war in Armenia (sent to international organizations on January 2021). The report also contains links to videos demonstrating indisputable facts of torture and ill-treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war by Armenian soldiers,” she further said.

“International humanitarian law requires that the parties during armed conflict treat prisoners of war humanely under all circumstances. We would like to point out that when calling on the parties to comply with the requirements of the Third Geneva Convention, HRW must observe impartiality," the ombudsperson commented.

She also emphasized that in full accordance with the joint statement of November 10, 2020 (between presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia’s prime minister to end the Second Karabakh War), the Azerbaijani side returned all Armenian POWs to Armenia.

“During both the First (1992-1994) and the Second Karabakh Wars, a clear indifference had been demonstrated to our country, to repeated calls against war crimes committed by the armed forces of Armenia against Azerbaijani civilians,” said Aliyeva. “Turning a blind eye on the above, as well as on the fact that Armenian political leadership held a part of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan under occupation for almost 30 years, as a result of which 1 million people were expelled from their homes, that during the hostilities, prohibited ammunition and weapons were used against civilians, as well as the refusal of Armenia to provide maps of minefields in the formerly occupied territories, and crimes against Azerbaijani prisoners of war are in no way compatible with the concept of justice.”

The Ombudsperson's report on the ill-treatment of Azerbaijani POWs also reflected the issue of three Azerbaijani civilians taken hostage by Armenia in 2014 in the formerly occupied Kalbajar district.

“One of them, Hasan Hasanov, was subjected to tortures and killed. Two other civilians, Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, were subjected to various forms of physical violence for six years, in connection with which Azerbaijan repeatedly raised the issue before the relevant international organizations. The report details our meetings with each of them after their release and their testimonies,” she noted.

Aliyeva also reminded that she met with the Armenian prisoners before their return and studied the conditions of their detention. They were given the opportunity to communicate with family members or relatives over the phone. The Ombudsperson gave them the European Convention on Human Rights in their own language and explained their rights. More detailed information is available in the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Azerbaijan and on the official website.

"We believe that HRW should conduct an objective investigation. We urge HRW and other relevant organizations to refrain from disseminating any biased reports or statements that may lead to hatred and further human rights violations," she concluded.

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