By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijani Human Rights Commissioner Sabina Aliyeva has said that the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the mistreatment of Armenian PОWs held in Azerbaijan reflects a biased approach and misleads the international community.
Aliyeva made the remarks, while commenting on the allegations of mistreatment of the Armenian PОWs in HRW's report dated March 19, 2021.
"We regret to note that the recent report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleging the ill-treatment towards Armenian POWs detained in Azerbaijan reflects a biased approach and confuses the international community," Aliyeva said.
She noted that any report on such sensitive topics as conflicts, their consequences, POWs, alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law, etc., should be based only on verified facts and substantiated arguments to follow the objectivity principle and avoid a one-sided stance.
"The materials and facts provided by reliable sources such as independent international and domestic human rights organizations should be referred to as well. Unfortunately, we do not see these principles in the HRW report. On the contrary, we again witness double standards in this respect and distortion of the truth and undeniable facts," the rights commissioner added.
Aliyeva added that Azerbaijan expected HRW to examine and interview the former Azerbaijani POWs who may provide eye-witnessed detailed information about the ill-treatment towards them as well as the other POWs with whom they were captured or shared cells in the Armenian custody.
"At least, HRW could get acquainted with the report of the Azerbaijani Ombudsman on treatment towards the Azerbaijani POWs and hostages in the Armenian custody before issuing their own report. The Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s report reflects former Azerbaijani POWs’ and hostages’ testimonies on how they were treated during their captivity. For example during their interviewing personally by the Ombudsman, one said that he was prodded with a sharp metal rod, and the other one stated he was subjected to electric shocks, and one was repeatedly burned with a cigarette lighter," the commissioner stressed.
Aliyeva noted that during a face-to-face meeting with the Ombudsman, "one of those released captives, a military servant, said that he was severely wounded in his left leg and right eye (a bullet entered a lower part of his eye and exit the oral cavity) as a result of a fire from a large-calibre weapon during the hostilities. That night, due to bleeding in the vein, the Armenian doctor put stitches on the palate for about 3 hours without using painkillers and anesthetics. In addition, in hospital, nurses injected him with an alcohol syringe and demanded that he repeat what they had said, but when he refused to do so, he continued to be subjected to further torture and other ill-treatment".
During the captivity, they were not given any opportunity to communicate with their family members and relatives, she added.
She noted that the report of the Ombudsman on ill-treatment of the Azerbaijani POWs also reflected the case of three Azerbaijani civilians who were taken hostage by Armenia.
"One of them - Hasan Hasanov was subjected to torture and brutally killed. The other two, Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, were subjected to different physical abuses during 6 years period about which many times the Ombudsman raised issues before relevant international organizations. After their release, the Ombudsman interviewed them one by one and the detailed information about their testimonies was placed in the report," Aliyeva added.
The rights commissioner said that the aforesaid are just some of the cases brought to HRW attention.
"More detailed information can be found in the last report of the Azerbaijani Ombudsman on ill-treatment towards the Azerbaijani POWs in captivity of Armenia. The links of videos, which show undeniable facts of torture and ill-treatment towards the Azerbaijani POWs by the Armenian soldiers, are also reflected in the report," Aliyeva said.
International humanitarian law requires parties to an armed conflict to treat POWs humanely in all circumstances.
"We need to note that HRW should take an impartial stance when calling the parties to the Third Geneva Convention, to meet the requirements of this Convention. This also should be noted that all Armenian POWs have been repatriated to Armenia by Azerbaijan with displaying full observance of the Joint Statement dated November 10, 2020," she said.
Aliyeva underlined a clear indifference to Azerbaijan's true voice and to the repeated calls about Armenia's war crimes against Azerbaijani civilians during the first Karabakh war in the early 1990s and the 44-day second Karabakh war in 2020.
"This totally fails to be fair turning a blind eye to the crimes committed by the political and military leadership of Armenia keeping internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan under occupation for almost 30 years, displacing one million people, targeting the civilians during the hostilities by banned munitions, refusing to disclose the map of landmines planted in the areas which were under the occupation and torturing the Azerbaijani POWs during their captivity," she said.
The rights commissioner reitertaed that unlike Armenia, the Azerbaijani Ombudsman had visited the Armenian POWs before they were repatriated and examined their detention conditions. They were provided with telephone communication with their families and relatives. The Ombudsman gave them European Convention on Human Rights in their native language and explained their rights. The comprehensive information about it can be found in the Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s mentioned report and the official website.
"In conclusion, we consider that HRW should take an impartial stance and carry out an objective investigation. We call on HRW and other relevant organizations to avoid issuing any partial reports or statements, which may trigger hatred and cause further human rights violations,".
Earlier, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and the Azerbaijani Committee against Torture rejected the HRW allegations as biased.
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