Law 16:05 18/01/2021 Armenia

Armenian ombudsman applies to Minsk Group co-chairs over return of POWs from Azerbaijan

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan on Monday addressed an official letter to the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, on the return of Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) from Azerbaijan and the protection of their rights.

The letter states, among other things, that the release and return of prisoners should be considered solely in the context of human rights and the humanitarian process. The letter applies to both servicemen and civilians, Tatoyan said in a statement.

“The return of prisoners must be ensured immediately after the cessation of hostilities. This is a universal requirement of international practice which is to be automatically applied. Doing the opposite violates international human rights requirements - international humanitarian law, including the 1949 UN Convention on Human Rights (the third convention).

“Therefore, since paragraph 8 of the tripartite declaration of November 9, 2020 has an autonomous meaning, it should be acted upon exclusively with an autonomous interpretation. In any case, it should not be considered in connection with or dependence on other points of the announcement.

“The tripartite statement of November 9 must be applied both before and after all the situations that have arisen, as long as there is an objective need for the protection of human rights and the humanitarian process due to hostilities.

“It is a matter of fundamental importance that the return of 64 Armenian servicemen captives is delayed by abusing legal proceedings, artificially giving them the status of suspects or accused, positing them as terrorists, and using detention as a punishment.

“Studies by the Ombudsman of Armenia and the results of the investigation of the complaints continuously confirm that the release of the Armenian captives and other detainees in Azerbaijan is being artificially delayed, and the real number of captives is not being reported. This also contradicts international human rights requirements, violating the rights of their families in the first instance.

“Moreover, the evidence gathered by the Human Rights Defender's Office confirms that their number is higher than the Azerbaijani authorities have confirmed. This, despite taking into account the return of 44 prisoners.

“All of this causes mental suffering to the families of the captives, and causes tension in Armenian society.

“The absolute urgency of the issue of the release of prisoners should be considered in the context of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan, which is encouraged by the country's authorities and even cultural figures (an extraordinary report on this issue was sent based on evidence).

“Therefore, taking into account the humanitarian mandates of the OSCE Minsk Group and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the role of human rights defenders, and the fact that our compatriots were taken prisoner in Atsrakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the Co-Chairs called attention to this and all other issues. This is a matter of an urgency which necessitates the taking of decisive measures to exclude the politicization of the issue while bringing about a swift and just resolution,” the statement said.

Tatoyan noted that the foreign minister of Armenia is also consistently raising this matter, including with the OSCE Minsk Group and Andrzej Kasprzyk. “Nevertheless, the Human Rights Defender also presented with the results of the independent observations and the examination of the complaints registered taking into account the Human Rights Defender’s capacity as an official acting independently of the Government of Armenia, who is endowed with a constitutional mandate for the protection of human rights,” he added. 

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