No:102/21, Commentary by the Press Service Department of the MFA of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the alleged cases of mistreatment with Armenian POWs as reported by Human Rights Watch

Azerbaijan is committed to upholding international norms including international humanitarian and human rights law. As such, we reject the claims from Human Rights Watch that POWs were not treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. 

We regret that the recent report by HRW on alleged cases of mistreatment of Armenian POWs is one-sided, and falls short of providing an objective situation. The systematic nature of such reports based on unsubstantiated arguments and unchecked facts casts doubt on their validity.

Armenian POWs and civilians detained in Azerbaijan were treated in accordance with the requirements of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, they were not subjected to torture, humiliation and inhuman treatment, and they were provided with the necessary medical care. Each of them underwent a medical examination during their detention. The examination did not reveal any traces of injuries (except for injuries received in combat operations).

Contrary to claims that POWs remain in custody, Azerbaijan has returned all Armenian prisoners of war to Armenia. This was agreed under the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020.

While detained, beginning from October 2020, Armenian POWs and civilians were provided with regular visits by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and telephone and video calls with family members were facilitated.

In addition, representatives of the Ombudsman's Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan regularly reviewed the conditions of POWs by visiting their places of detention.

Azerbaijan has opened criminal investigations against those allegedly linked to cases of abuse. It should be noted that despite repeated requests and numerous allegations Armenia has not launched any investigations into the cases of degrading treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war and detained civilians.

The Government of Armenia has attempted to confuse the context in which arrests have been made. Following the end of the conflict, marked by the signing of the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, anyone detained in Azerbaijan cannot be considered POWs.

Those sent by Armenia to the territory of Azerbaijan with the aim of engaging in sabotage and terrorist activities in the period after the signing of the mentioned trilateral statement, are not and cannot be considered as POWs in accordance with international humanitarian law and are liable under the criminal law of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Detainees are being treated in accordance with international human rights law, and Azerbaijani law upholding their rights.

To reiterate, Azerbaijan has returned all detainees classified as POWs.

The Government of Azerbaijan calls on HRW to turn its attention to the testimonies of the ill-treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war and civilian detainees by Armenia, as well as thousands of missing Azerbaijanis.

As a result of the first Karabakh War, 3890 Azerbaijanis went missing and their fate still remains unknown. These missing people were comprised of 3171 militaries and 719 civilians (including 71 children, 267 women, 326 elderly). According to the witnesses of 1480 former Azerbaijani POWs, in a grave violation of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Azerbaijani POWs were tortured, ill-treated and held in degrading conditions. Criminal investigations proved that 35 people were responsible for degrading treatment and torture against the Azerbaijani POWs and detainees. The names of those responsible were presented to Interpol.

There are also numerous evidences, including video materials showing the mistreatment of the Azerbaijani POWs by the Armenian armed forces during the latest military operations, which were widely disseminated in social media. 

All POWs and civilians previously detained in Armenia and later returned to Azerbaijan underwent a forensic medical examination and were questioned about the conditions of their detention. Expert opinions, personal statements, and other materials confirmed that the vast majority of detainees were subjected to physical torture and inhumane treatment.

Unlike Azerbaijan, the Government of Armenia has refused to investigate these allegations.

We call the relevant international institutions to refrain from such a one-sided stance and ensure complete impartiality in compiling reports with regard to the post-conflict situation in the region.

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