August 30 is International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, which has been celebrated since 2011, Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of Azerbaijan Sabina Aliyeva said, Trend reports.
The main purpose of marking this day in the world is to commemorate thousands of missing people, those who died on the battlefield, those who were detained or secretly killed, and those whose natural rights such as life, liberty, and other human rights were violated.
- Today is International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. As is known, many of our people went missing during the First Karabakh War. What information do you have about them?
Although the exact number of people missing during the wars cannot be determined for objective reasons, we can say with confidence that today, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of these people. Unfortunately, many of our compatriots also went missing as a result of Armenia’s unfounded territorial claims and nearly 30 years of military aggression against Azerbaijan. Their families are always longing to receive information about the fate of their loved ones. This is their right. However, they were deprived of this right due to the gross violation of the norms of international law by Armenia to which it is a party. According to the latest information, 719 civilians and 3,171 military personnel, a total of 3,890 people have been registered as missing. I would like to reiterate that 71 of the missing civilians are children, including 20 girls, and 267 are women, including 154 elderly. I would like to emphasize that the fact that 872 out of 3890 people, including 29 children, 98 women and 112 elderly were taken hostage, as they had not left their homes and remained in the occupied territories during the occupation of settlements, villages and cities, was determined.
- What was the result of the work done to return the captives and hostages? How many people have been returned over the years?
Despite the statements of the released servicemen from Armenian captivity and the civilians who witnessed the incident, the Republic of Armenia deliberately denies the fact that these people were taken captives and detained. One of the indisputable facts is related to 54 Azerbaijanis mentioned and confirmed to be alive in the letters submitted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1998 and 2001. According to these materials, 54 Azerbaijani citizens taken captive by the Armenian armed forces were visited and officially registered by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Republic of Armenia and in the territory then occupied by the Armenia Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan. However, those 54 people, who were confirmed to be alive, were killed by the Armenian military-political leadership. Although the corpses of 17 of them were returned, 33 of them, including 6 women, died in custody, their corpses were not returned, and the fate of 4 of them was not reported at all. This is a serious violation of human rights.
- The biggest atrocity committed by Armenians is the Khojaly genocide. People also went missing during the Khojaly massacre. What do we know about their fate?
Also, out of 613 Khojaly residents who were subjected to genocide by the Armenian armed forces during the occupation of the Azerbaijani city of Khojaly, 63 were minors and 106 were women of different ages. 8 families were completely destroyed, 487 people including 76 children were diagnosed with severe disability. At present, 196 Khojaly residents, including 36 children (13 of them were girls) and 65 women (20 of them were elderly people), are registered as missing. Testimonies and journalistic interviews of people released from Armenian captivity during the First Karabakh War confirm that the Armenian armed forces committed various crimes, including war crimes. Hundreds of Azerbaijanis were determined a lifelong disability degree due to the loss of their health because of severe injuries and unbearable physical and psychological torture they had been subjected to in captivity. Thus, even today they suffer from physical or mental health problems.
- During the ceasefire in Armenia, hostage-taking activities of civilians continued. What are the facts about this?
The Armenian political and military leadership facilitated the illegal arrest of Azerbaijani civilians by taking them hostage not only during the First Karabakh War but also in the following years after the ceasefire was declared, which clearly proves the policy of hatred against peaceful Azerbaijanis. It is clear from the videos spread on various social networks and the confessions of the Armenian servicemen that they acted with a special hatred, humiliated the Azerbaijani servicemen who died, and tried to create tension by sharing such cases. The humiliation, torture, and other abusive actions of the wounded and captured Azerbaijani servicemen, as well as the killing of wounded soldiers and mass burials, were reflected in several videos and photos.
- What work has been done on this issue since you started working as the Ombudsman of the Republic of Azerbaijan?
I would like to note that as the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan, during the Second Karabakh War, which began on September 27, 2020, and lasted for 44 days, we have always paid attention to the situation of prisoners of war and their return. As the Ombudsman, I personally met and interviewed Armenian prisoners of war at that time, presented them with booklets about their rights in their own languages. These prisoners of war confirmed that they were satisfied with the conditions created for them and they contacted their family members. Each of them was returned to his country. As you can see, unlike the attitude of the Armenian side towards Azerbaijani prisoners of war during the war, steps such as the evacuation of Armenian prisoners of war from the war zone in Azerbaijan, hospitalization of wounded servicemen and improving their health were based on the principle of humanism.
- As you mentioned, Armenia has grossly violated the rules of treatment of prisoners. In general, what are the international rules regarding hostages?
Armenia, contrary to the requirements of international agreements to which it is a party, as well as the Geneva Conventions of 1949, does not provide information on the fate of seven servicemen missing during the Second Karabakh War, as well as the places of mass burials. Armenia does not refrain from actions aimed at enforced disappearance of both civilian and military personnel, by violation of international humanitarian law. Failure to provide information to family members about missing persons is a gross violation of the principle of “respect for family life” in international human rights and international humanitarian law. This also includes information about those who lost their lives. According to the 4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Each Party to the conflict shall facilitate inquiries made by members of families dispersed owing to the war, with the object of renewing contact with one another and of meeting, if possible. The adverse party of the conflict is also obliged to assist in the search for the missing person. The UN General Assembly Resolution of 6 November 1974 recommended that the parties to the conflict provide mutual information on missing persons. At the same time, the relevant resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2002 stipulates that each party to an armed conflict, as soon as circumstances permit and at the latest from the end of active hostilities, shall search for the persons who have been reported missing by an adverse party. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which supports missing families in learning the fate of their loved ones, has an important role in collecting and centralizing information on missing persons owing to Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan. The 1999 Declaration of the International Committee of the Red Cross on the Adoption of the Action Plan for 2000-2003, requires to made to clarify the fate of all persons unaccounted for and to inform the families accordingly, and to identify dead persons, inform their families and return their bodies to them.
- What steps are taken to bring the issue to the attention of the international community and take appropriate decisions in this direction?
As the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan, by constantly focusing on the protection of the rights of captives, missing persons, and hostages as a result of the military aggression of Armenia against our country, we continue our efforts in cooperation with international organizations, as well as humanitarian organizations to eliminate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against them, in particular their release and extradition to our country. We reported individually to the UN, the Council of Europe, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other competent international and regional organizations the facts on gross violations of international law and humanitarian law in relation to captives, missing persons, and hostages, the torture, humiliation they had been subjected to. All the issues we have raised, including the facts I mentioned in my speech, are very serious human rights violations and require concrete decisions and measures. Because the Republic of Azerbaijan, of which about 20 percent of historical lands were under Armenian occupation for nearly 30 years, and more than one million citizens have been living as refugees and internally displaced persons for many years, is still suffering from the bitter consequences of unjust and unfounded military provocations. Armenian armed forces did not hesitate to target Azerbaijani civilian objects and persons by violating the principle of distinction reflected in Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims and their Additional Protocols, which obliges belligerents to distinguish between combatants and civilian population and between military objectives and civilian objects, as the latter cannot be the object of attack. Contrary to the requirements of the trilateral declaration ending military operations, Armenia has not yet withdrawn illegal armed groups from the liberated territories of Azerbaijan but has deployed more armed forces and equipment there, and various provocative actions by sabotage groups have resulted in casualties, which is a threat to lasting peace in the region. In conclusion, I once again pay tribute to the memory of those missing in wars and for other reasons, and I call on the world community, international organizations to assist in receiving information about the fate of our compatriots captured, went missing, and taken hostage as a result of Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan, in returning of those who are still alive and the corpses of those who died. Let’s work together to ensure respect for the norms of international law and to prevent further human rights violations!
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