Armenia refuses to provide information on mass graves of slain Azerbaijanis [PHOTO]
By Vugar Khalilov
Armenia is refusing to share information on sites of mass graves of Azerbaijanis, who went missing during the first Karabakh war, Azernews reports, citing Habib Mikayilli, sector manager of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration.
Mikayilli said this at the August 30 conference, entitled "Identification of Missing Persons - Humanitarian Approach" dedicated to the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
Mikayilli stressed that Armenia does not disclose information on the location of Azerbaijani mass graves since it is aware that these cases of murders may be regarded as war crimes.
"The mine problem is also an obstacle in the investigation of these issues. Azerbaijan together with the International Committee of Red Cross will take joint steps in this area starting next month. In addition, it's necessary to apply forensic medical expertise in this matter. The joint ICRC mechanism with Azerbaijan and Armenia in connection with missing persons can be efficient to this end," Mikayilli added.
He emphasized that Azerbaijan seeks partners to encourage Armenia to act seriously on the issue of missing persons. Azerbaijan welcomes the EU's recent engagement, notably, statements made by EU Council President Charles Michel in December calling for the full resolution of all humanitarian problems, including the release of further detainees and the investigation of the fates of the missing individuals.
"We need cooperation and political will of Armenia to address this issue," Mikayilli stressed.
He stated that the topic of missing individuals has acquired importance as a result of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's efforts.
"Now we expect Armenia to provide Azerbaijan with information on the exact location of the burial sites and mass graves. After the second Karabakh war, Armenia submitted a few maps on mass graves, but unfortunately, we could not find anything," he said.
According to Mikayilli, a combined International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mechanism for missing persons involving Azerbaijan and Armenia has been proposed.
"The mine problem also impedes the investigation of these issues. From next month, steps will be taken jointly with the ICRC in this direction, and for this, a forensic medical examination should be used. The joint ICRC mechanism with Azerbaijan and Armenia for the missing persons can be effective in this regard," he underlined.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported 37 missing Azerbaijanis, whose fates are unknown, Mikayilli added.
"I call on the ICRC to investigate these issues. A UN special rapporteur in this field can also be appointed, who would deal with issues of missing persons not only in Azerbaijan and Armenia but also in other countries," he said.
In turn, Dragana Kojic, head of the ICRC's Baku office, stressed that the organization will continue to assist Azerbaijani authorities in locating missing people.
"ICRC once again expresses its commitment to the principles of neutrality and impartiality and to support the relevant authorities in the process of identifying missing persons," she said.
Furthermore, Emil Agayev, senior investigator of the Military Prosecutor's Office, stated that during construction and restoration work carried out on Azerbaijan’s liberated territories, the remains of at least 29 people were discovered in 18 locations.
During the entire period of the conflict, Armenia hid information about the missing persons from international organizations and avoided providing information about their further fate, Agayev added.
“While 54 of the missing individuals from the first Karabakh war were still alive when they were detained by Armenia, members of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited them at various times. Although the deaths of 33 of them were recorded, their remains were not returned, and it was impossible to obtain any information about four of them,” he said
According to the official, the remains of Azerbaijanis, who were buried in Azerbaijani lands under Armenian control were given back on February 28, May 5, July 3, August 3, and October 5, 2021. Azerbaijan also handed up the remains of six bodies in January, three in February, and 14 in April 2022.
"From February 2021 to April 2022, we handed over 67 remains," Aghayev said.
Adalat Hasanov, director of the Azerbaijani Health Ministry's Association of Forensic Medical Examination and Pathological Anatomy, on the other hand, stated that last week, one box containing human remains was sent from Shixbabali village in Aghdam, two boxes from Zallar village in Kalbajar, and one from Chirag village in Kalbajar.
He added that a forensic investigation of the remains will take place this week.
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