Path of Law


Azerbaijan’s War Crimes and the Work of Armenian Human Rights Activists Covered by International Organizations and the Media

During the 44-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan on September 27, 2020, both Armenian servicemen and civilians were taken captive by Azerbaijan. In general, the lattereither did not manage or refused to leave their homes before the enemy invaded. Although the majority of the civilians were elderly people who could not take part in military operations, it did not matter to the Azerbaijani forces. The captured people were tortured as war criminals.

Numerous videos of the torture of captured Armenian servicemen and civilians appeared on various social platforms during the war, capturing the attention of both the public and the media.

The Ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia, several human rights activists, and the Interdepartmental Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons are involved in the protection of the rights of detainees.

Human rights activists Siranush Sahakyan, who is also co-founder of “Path of Law” human rights NGO, and Artak Zeynalyan prepared and submitted numerous lawsuits to the European Court of Human Rights (the “Court”), raising questions regarding the grave violations of Armenian civilians’ and combatants’ rights. In this regard, they have also cooperated with differentinstitutions, and continue to do so.

Even though according to human rights activists it is not possible to give an exact number of prisoners of war at this stage, the cases obtained by them that have an undeniable evidentiary basis (photos, videos, eyewitnesses) come to prove that the number of prisoners of war is incomparably high. Based on the presented irrefutable evidence, the human rights activists have managed to get new confirmations of prisoners of war before the Court. According to Siranush Sahakyan, currently the captivity of more than 70 individuals has been confirmed before the Court. This number was only 20 in January 2021.

The human rights activists, as well as the office of the Representative of Armenia before the European Court, have repeatedly written letters to the Court, presenting evidence on the fact that Azerbaijan does not fully comply with the Court’s decisions of applying interim measures.

The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, RT France, L’Orient-Le Jour, ValeursActuelles, News Front and other renowned and authoritative media have covered the stories of the Armenian victims and prisoners of war, as well as the work planned and conducted by Siranush Sahakyan and Artak Zeynalyan.

The Washington Post covers the war crimes of the 2020 Artsakh war, as well as the videos of Genadi Petrosyan and Yuri Asryan, civilians tortured and killed by Azeri soldiers.

The Guardian also covers war crimes of Azerbaijan, spreading light on the stories of individuals identified as a result of the work of the Armenian human rights activists. In the interview given to the periodical, Ms. Sahakyan mentions: “It is emotionally difficult to watch those videos. But from a professional point of view, these videos can be very useful evidence,”- she said, adding that the videos are carefully reviewed to make sure they are not falsified.

The Wall Street Journal covers the search operations of missing persons during the war conducted by their parents, the exchange of prisoners of war by Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the issue of Armenian prisoners of war still held in Azerbaijan. The authoritative periodical quotes the opinion of Siranush Sahakyan on that problem. “The issue is being politicized,” said Siranush Sahakyan, lawyer representing the families of more than 100 Armenian prisoners of war at the Court. “The humanitarian issue is intertwined with the issue of the political agenda, which is unacceptable. We also know that unsubstantiated delays in the repatriation of prisoners of war are war crimes.”

RT France writes that several hundred videos showing war crimes during the conflict in the Nagorno Karabakh region have been broadcast on social media. The Guardian and Amnesty Internationalconfirmed andanalyzed some of them. RT France, in particular, covers the murders of 69-year-old Genadi Petrosyan and 82-year-old Yuri Asryan, residents of the village of Madatashen in Artsakh, by Azerbaijani armed forces.

Published by the authoritative Valeurs Actuelles, the article entitled “NagornoKarabakh: videos of beheadings reveal the “lack of humanity” in Azerbaijani forces” also tells about the atrocities of Azerbaijan.

Two of the hundreds of videos exposing the atrocities, torture and killings, some of which were broadcast following the signing of a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijanunder Russian auspices, show the beheading of two Armenian civilians. In these two videos, The Guardian was able to identify the victims, thanks to the testimonies of the habitants of the villages where the crimes were committed. These facts were further confirmed by the reports of Artsakh Human Rights Defender Artak Beglaryan, and Armenian human rights activists Siranush Sahakyan and Artak Zeynalyan.

The 44-day war and the work of Armenian human rights activists were also covered in numerous publications by the reputable Human Rights Watch.

In particular, on December 2, 2020, the following article was published: “Azerbaijan: Armenian Prisoners of War Badly Mistreated.”

“There can be no justification for the violent and humiliating treatment of prisoners of war,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Humanitarian law is absolutely clear on the obligation to protect POWs. Azerbaijan’s authorities should ensure that this treatment ends immediately.”

The publication posted on the website of the non-governmental organization RTBF on October 24, 2020, particularly presents the situation in Artsakh, refers to the murder of 73-year-old Benik Hakobyan and 25-year-old Yuri Adamyan by the Azerbaijani military, citing the videos that appeared on social media and were checked by BBC.

The article published on the website of RFI in December 2020, reports about Benik Hakobyan and Yuri Adamyan: “In these widely circulated images in the Telegram, Azerbaijani soldiers beheaded two Armenian villagers. Armenian lawyer Siranush Sahakyan has seen hundreds of such videos. Her goal is to identify the victims. Every minute is important.” “Some of the victims in the videos are alive and are being held captive. Their lives are in danger. That is why we do not have time to waste time finding those responsible for the crimes. We will come back to that later,” the lawyer explained.

Through the international media, human rights activists Siranush Sahakyan and Artak Zeynalyan called upon the international community to double its efforts to investigate the war crimes committed as a result of the conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.