Law 14:11 27/02/2021 Armenia

Ombudsman denounces Azerbaijan’s efforts to politicize issue of Armenian POWs’ return

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan denounced the Azerbaijani authorities’ move to politicize the return of the Armenian prisoners of war (POWs).

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Tatoyan condemned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s statement calling Armenian prisoners “terrorists”.

“We carried out an anti-terror operation, as a result of which more than 60 terrorists were arrested. They are now referred to as prisoners of war. We believe this is a misrepresentation of the issue, because 20 days after the end of the war there can be no POWs. We returned all the prisoners of war before they [Armenia, ed.] had returned our prisoners to us. And those persons are not POWs, they are terrorists and saboteurs,” Aliyev said.

“The ombudsman of Armenia once again resolutely states that all Armenian servicemen and civilians held in Azerbaijan have the status of prisoners of war. All the servicemen were in Artsakh to fulfill their constitutional duties; they performed military service in Artsakh as prescribed by law.

“Credible evidence collected by the Human Rights Defender's Office confirms that the number of captured persons is actually higher than confirmed by the Azerbaijani authorities. It refers also to the period preceding the return of a group of 44 prisoners.

“The human rights defender has registered numerous cases when, despite the cases documented by videos and other evidence, the Azerbaijani authorities denied the capture of those persons or delayed the confirmation process.

“Initiating criminal proceedings against the Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan, arresting them and calling them "terrorists" or "saboteurs" are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in general,” the ombudsman said, citing the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.

He underlined that in the post-war period, human rights or humanitarian issues, including the release of POWs, must be resolved immediately after the cessation of hostilities and must be kept away from the political processes.

“The statement of the Azerbaijani president that 20 days after the end of the war there can be no prisoners of war, thus calling the prisoners "saboteurs" or “terrorists” is absolutely unacceptable. It is inadmissible to interpret the November 9 tripartite statement as if it applies only to the situation before the signing of the statement,” Tatoyan said, stating the statement “didn’t put an end to the ongoing armed conflict”.

In addition, he said, the Azeri leader’s statements directly contradicts the intentions of the parties that signed the November 9 statement and the implementation of its clauses.

“In particular, pursuant to Clause 8 of the statement, the Republic of Armenia has already handed over to Azerbaijan two persons who were convicted for committing crimes in Artsakh, including murder of civilians. Following the same principle, Azerbaijan handed over to Armenia Armenians formally convicted in that country.

“Armenia and Azerbaijan also exchanged captives after the November 9 tripartite statement. Thus, this statement must be applied to all situations both before and after November 9 as long as there is an objective need for the protection of human rights and the humanitarian processes in the aftermath of hostilities,” the ombudsman noted.

Also, he said the urgency of the repatriation of Armenian prisoners should be considered in the context of the policy of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan, which has been repeatedly confirmed by the reports published by him on the basis of objective evidence.

“Therefore, it is absolutely reprehensible that the issue of the release and return of the Armenian POWs in Baku is clearly politicized, while the legal processes are distorted and abused.

“All this grossly violates the humanitarian processes and international human rights. Therefore, they must be released without any preconditions and returned safely to Armenia.

“I call the attention of the international community, particularly international organizations mandated to protect human rights, to the statement of Azerbaijan’s president to rule out any violations of the humanitarian processes and to ensure their strict compliance with international human rights law,” Tatoyan said. 

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