By Vafa Ismayilova
Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has appealed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting him to help establish the truth about numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Armenia against Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis.
Bayramov made the remarks in a letter addressed to Guterres on May 4, which has been circulated as a document of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, the Foreign Ministry said on May 21.
"I appeal to you once again with the request to extend your contribution to the establishment of the truth over numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated against Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis. I also call upon you to render assistance in bringing clarity to the fates of thousands of persons missing due to the conflict, as well as addressing the imminent threat posed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war," he said.
In the letter, Bayramov briefed Guterres on the preliminary results of the criminal case currently being conducted by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office on the intentional killing of Azerbaijani civilians by the Armenian troops in Kalbajar region's Bashlibel village in April 1993.
The minister said that having regained access to Azerbaijani territories following their liberation after Armenia's 30-year military occupation, the country's incumbent authorities are now able to collect additional material evidence with regard to numerous heinous crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Armenian armed forces during the aggression against Azerbaijan.
"As a result of these efforts, new details became unearthed regarding the mass killings of Azerbaijani civilians in Bashlibel village of Kalbajar district in April 1993. Thus, it was established that in the course of an attack by the armed forces of Armenia on the village on 3 April 1993, 62 civilian residents had to flee from the invading Armenian forces and took refuge in caves located 3 km away from the village. On 18 April 1993, the armed forces of Armenia found the civilians hiding in the caves and subjected them to intensive fire from machine guns and other types of weapons," he said.
The minister stressed that consequently 12 civilians, including one child and one teenager, were killed on the spot inside the caves.
"The graves of those 12 civilians have been identified on the basis of the testimonies by the eyewitnesses who had been able to escape from the caves and managed to return later on to the area on 12 May 1993, secretly, to bury their fellow villagers. The remains of killed civilians have been exhumed and collected by the investigation team for the purpose of subsequent medical examination and genetic tests. It has been further identified that 14 other civilians, including 3 children, were taken as hostages and subjected to torture and other inhumane treatment, as a result of which 9 of them died due to physical and psychological injuries inflicted upon them," Bayramov added.
He noted that the remaining civilians encircled by the Armenian troops survived the massacre and managed to reach the safe zone under the Azerbaijani armed forces' control after 113 days by crossing the mountainous passes. The minister said that investigative procedures continue to identify the other details of this serious war crime, including identification of perpetrators and masterminds.
Bayramov emphasized that the entire village was razed to the ground and all the properties belonging to its residents were completely destroyed.
"The Bashlibel massacre is by no means an isolated case but adds to numerous previously identified war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Armenia in the course of its armed aggression against Azerbaijan. A comprehensive investigation of all those crimes is of critical importance for justice and post-conflict reconciliation. In order for the peace to be sustained, justice must be served to all those who have fallen victim to past wrongdoings. This is of the utmost necessity for not allowing the same horrific events to be repeated in the future," the minister said.
He reiterated that it is of vital importance that Armenia finally abandons its refusal to take any action to address numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by its armed forces and to cooperate with Azerbaijan and the wider international community to bring the perpetrators to justice.
High time for Armenia to live up to its obligations
Bayramov said that with the end of the conflict, it is high time for Armenia to live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law and take practical steps to shed light on dark pages of its armed aggression against Azerbaijan.
"In this context, Armenia’s continued refusal to cooperate on the issue of establishing the whereabouts of about 4,000 Azerbaijanis who went missing in the period of the military hostilities in 1991–1994 must be expeditiously addressed. Identification of the fates of the missing persons is necessary for thousands of their relatives and close ones to finally find consolation," he said.
The minister added that Armenia’s persistent refusal to provide information on missing persons is particularly incomprehensible in view of the fact that all the conditions continue to be created by Azerbaijan for the retrieval of the bodies of the Armenian servicemen fallen during the hostilities in autumn 2020.
Bayramov said that by risking their lives, Azerbaijani servicemen continue to facilitate the search operations for the Armenian armed forces and relatives of the missing Armenian servicemen.
"Thus far, around 1,500 corpses of the Armenian servicemen were found and handed over to Armenia. In the course of the search operations, one officer of the armed forces of Azerbaijan has lost his life due to the explosion of the Armenian-laid mine in liberated Sugovushan village while facilitating the retrieval of bodies of the fallen Armenian soldiers," he said.
The minister said that against the backdrop of the abovementioned, Armenia’s continuous failure to cooperate to establish the fates of thousands of Azerbaijani missing persons cannot have any justification.
"With the signing of the two trilateral statements by the leaders of Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Armenia, on 10 November 2020 and 11 January 2021, respectively, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have the unique chance to leave the tragic pages of enmity and hostility behind and normalize their relations on the basis of mutual recognition of and respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders," Bayramov added.
He noted that the aforesaid facts are of crucial importance to translate into reality the vision of peace, security and cooperation of the mentioned trilateral statements to the benefit of the peoples of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as broader regional peace and stability.
Bayramov underlined that Azerbaijan expects that the international community will stay firm in defence of values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter and international humanitarian law by taking decisive measures to persuade Armenia to become a genuine partner for peace ceasing its revanchist actions and rhetoric and, instead, focusing on the elimination of harsh consequences of the war it had unleashed against Azerbaijan.
On November 10, Baku and Yerevan signed a Moscow-brokered deal that brought an end to 44 days of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani army declared a victory against the Armenian troops. The signed agreement obliged Armenia to withdraw its troops from the Azerbaijani lands that it has occupied since the early 1990s.
Before the signing of the deal, the Azerbaijani Army had liberated around 300 villages, settlements, city centres and historic Shusha city.
On January 11, the Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian leaders signed the second statement since the end of the 44-day war. The newly-signed statement is set to implement clause 9 of the November 2020 statement related to the unblocking of all economic and transport communications in the region.
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