By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijani Human Rights Commissioner Sabina Aliyeva has called on Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic to urge Armenia to submit maps of minefields on the country's liberated territories, the ombudsman office reported on April 30.
Some 21 Azerbaijani citizens, including 14 civilians were killed and 87 citizens, 16 civilians were injured in mine explosions in liberated lands since the signing of the Karabakh peace deal by Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on November 10, 2020.
In a letter addressed to Mijatovic, Aliyeva said: "I... would like to ask you as an impartial institution to call on Armenia to provide Azerbaijan with minefield maps and stop the violations of human rights. I look forward to close cooperation with your Office for the protection and promotion of human rights in the light of fairness and impartiality.”
The rights commissioner said that there still remain hundreds of thousands of unmarked landmines on Azerbaijani territories planted by Armenia during the occupation period.
"Dozens of civilians were killed or severely injured due to these mines so far. We many times raised this issue before the relevant international organizations and still expect their response to call on Armenia to provide the maps of these landmines to prevent further casualties," she said.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev earlier described Armenia’s failure to provide the mine maps as the main difficulty for Azerbaijani IPDs to return to their homes. He said that this is yet another war crime by Armenia as several servicemen and civilians were killed in mine blasts on the liberated territories after the war.
Gross rights violations
Aliyeva stressed that since its establishment, the country's ombudsman institution had, many times, informed the Council of Europe human rights commissioner about gross violations of rights of Azerbaijanis who failed to return to their native lands and had to live as IDPs in different regions of Azerbaijan.
“As you know the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been ended by the trilateral agreement signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia on the 10th of November 2020. Due to this conflict, which lasted for almost 30 years, 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan has been under the occupation of Armenia and more than one million Azerbaijanis have been forcibly displaced facing great humanitarian tragedies," she said.
The rights activist noted that UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874, and 884 adopted in 1993 clearly indicated and condemned the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands and expressed grave concern at the displacement of large numbers of civilians in Azerbaijan.
"These documents called for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and requested the relevant international agencies to assist displaced persons to return to their homes in security and dignity. Nevertheless, we did not witness any attempt by your side to call on Armenian authorities to implement the mentioned resolutions and help the IDPs to return to their homes," she stressed.
Aliyeva emphasized that even the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment on “Chiragov and others v. Armenia” recalled Armenia’s obligations towards the Azerbaijanis who had to flee during the conflict.
"The Court stresses that Armenian and Armenian-backed troops on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan prevent the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to their lands. We have many times brought to your attention the situation of the hostages, Dilgam Askerov and Shahbaz Guliyev who had been in captivity of Armenia for six years. They were illegally taken hostage by the armed forces of Armenia while visiting their homelands and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. We issued statements and a report in this regard and sent to all relevant international human rights organizations, including your Office. But unfortunately, we did not receive any response from your side on this case," she said.
Azerbaijan's ombudsperson noted that during the counter-offensive operations for the liberation of Azerbaijan's occupied territories in line with the above-mentioned international documents, she conducted several fact-finding missions in the residential areas, which came under Armenia's missile attacks and issued seven thematic reports based on the outcomes.
She underlined that those reports reflected blatant indiscriminate attacks by using banned munitions, which caused hundreds of civilian casualties in Azerbaijan. Aliyeva recalled the killing of innocent civilians in the shelling of the densely-populated areas in Ganja and Barda, as well as other cities and regions far from the war zone.
"Those attacks obviously constitute war crimes. The noted above reports were also sent to all relevant international human rights organizations, along with your Office. But unfortunately, we again witnessed no reaction from your side to these violations of human rights and humanitarian law," she stressed.
The rights activist added that the long-standing silence at human rights violations, Armenia's unwillingness to implement the international law, disrespect for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity "embolden the perpetrators and lead to further violations of human rights".
She described the continuing occupation for almost 30 years and blatant disrespect for the country's internationally recognized territory as the obvious result of a similar attitude.
"I am of the opinion that you, as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, have to express your regret, not about a military trophy park created for future generations as a lesson commemorating dangers of the policy of aggression and intolerance, but about destructions, plundering and acts of vandalism committed against hundreds of historical monuments, dozens of museums, mosques and cultural heritage in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and condemn it," Aliyeva said.
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