The US Department of State, in its recent “2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” published this week, has confirmed that Armenian troops committed atrocities against Azerbaijani servicemen during the Second Karabakh War in 2020.
According to the report, systematic beatings, inhumane conditions of detention, withholding of medical care and other basic needs, cruelty, and humiliation against Azerbaijani captives were common abuses committed during the war.
“There was prima facie evidence that members of ethnic Armenian armed forces unlawfully executed two wounded and captured Azerbaijani combatants,” the report highlighted.
“At least seven Azerbaijani prisoners of war were subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment at the hands of Armenian armed forces.”
According to the report, if the killings are confirmed through further investigations, they would violate the International Humanitarian Law’s prohibition on violence to life and person, as well as constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Armenia and Azerbaijan were locked in a decades-old armed conflict over the latter’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a full-blown military campaign against Azerbaijan, marking the longest and deadliest war in the South Caucasus region. The bloody war ended in a ceasefire in 1994, which saw Armenia forcibly occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, 3,890 went missing, and one million others were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.
On September 27, 2020, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict took a violent turn when Armenia’s forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the Second Karabakh War that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from a nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended with the signing of a tripartite statement by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under the agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Around 3,000 Azerbaijani servicemen were martyred and 11,110 wounded during the Second Karabakh War in 2020, according to data compiled by the Azerbaijani government.
The inhumane treatment of Azerbaijani captives by Armenian soldiers was common throughout the war. Amin Musayev, a conscript of the Azerbaijani army, was taken hostage after being wounded during one of the battles. After being repatriated, Musayev spoke out on the physical torture he faced during his captivity.
“I was beaten in the ambulance. After a certain distance, they stopped the car, insulted and beat me again. Then I lost consciousness,” local media quoted him as saying.
“I found out later that I was in the hospital. When the doctor bandaged me, even he hit me severely when I screamed in pain. They provided meals whenever they wanted.”
Another captive, Ismail Irapov, a serviceman of the Azerbaijan State Border Service, was seen in video footage being tortured, throttled, and finally killed after his throat was slit by Armenian soldiers at one of their command posts.
The Department of State report also confirmed the abuse of Azerbaijani soldiers’ corpses by Armenian soldiers.
“Eight videos from social media appeared to show “the ill-treatment and despoliation of dead Azerbaijani soldiers” by members of Armenian armed forces,” the report states, describing it as constituting prima facie evidence of multiple cases of despoliation of dead Azerbaijani soldiers by Armenian troops and illegal detachments in once occupied Azerbaijani territories.