Path of Law

Human Rights Non-Governmental Organization

Every day is vital for the Armenian captives. A joint letter to the UN

On April 15, 2021, Path of Law NGO, the Armenian Bar Association, the Chamber of Advocates of Armenia and the International and Comparative Law Center-Armenia issued a joint letter on the issue of Armenian captives in Azerbaijan addressed to Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Morris Tidball-Binz, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions; Tae-Ung Baik, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice-Chairperson), Aua Balde, Bernard Duhaime, Luciano A. Hazan (members of the working group).

The reason for sending a letter to the above-mentioned UN representatives was their statement made on February 21 of this year, which called on the “Armenian and Azeri sides” for the prompt release of prisoners of war and other captives from the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and for the return of bodies to families for burial with due respect for cultural customs.

The organizations that wrote the letter to the UN structures expressed their surprise and confusion about the statement, noting that the UN experts were misinformed, as there have been no Azeri prisoners in Armenia since December 2020. This was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, when he announced on 18 January 2021 that Armenia had returned all Azeri prisoners who were captured during last year’s conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but the process with Armenian prisoners had been held up.

Thus, the organizations sending the letter note that the joint statement accidentally served to embolden Azerbaijan to continue to hold Armenian captives hostage in violation of Art. 118 of the Third Geneva Convention and even impose egregious conditions, including territorial concessions by the Armenian government in exchange for their release. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that an empty plane arrived in Yerevan from Baku a few days ago, which caused unspeakable further mental torture, terror and anguish to the relatives of remaining captives, as well as the Armenian population in general.

The organizations that sent the letter point to Azerbaijan’s war crimes, citing the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which the Court referred the matter of Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers for non-compliance with its interim orders on captives. It is noteworthy, that the European Court referred the matter of Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers, but not the matter of Armenia. This means that the issue of the presence of Azerbaijani prisoners in Armenia is closed.

Several European and other bodies have also specifically called on Azerbaijan to release the remaining captives, and Human Rights Watch has recently issued, a report showcasing Azerbaijan’s continued abuses in this respect.

With every single day that goes by, the nearly 200 Armenian POWs and civilian captives still held in Azerbaijani detention are at severe risk of continued extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.

Therefore, issuing both-side statements is not only inappropriate in this context, but also has the perverse effect of emboldening perpetrators.

The organizations that sent the letter respectfully urge the UN agencies to issue a new public statement, calling on Azerbaijan to immediately, unconditionally release all other Armenian captives and use whatever means at their disposal to oblige Azerbaijan to return the Armenian captives.

“Path of Law” NGO, one of the co-authors of the letter, represents the interests of about 200 victims of the war in the ECtHR, including prisoners of war and captives, and the NGO hopes on its behalf and on behalf of the families of the captives, that the letter addressees will act without delay to save the lives of innocent people.

Attached is the text of the letter.