The fate of nearly 200 Armenians reportedly in Azerbaijani custody remains unclear amid reports of abuse and humiliation, months after their return was mandated in a cease-fire ending the two countries’ armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Freedom House said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement issued by Freedom House came in response to reports of abuse of Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives detained by Azerbaijan.
“We are deeply concerned by the reports of dehumanizing treatment and abuse, including torture, of Armenians captured and detained by Azerbaijan after the recent armed conflict,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House.
“We urge the Azerbaijani authorities to fully cooperate with the efforts of the European Court of Human Rights to investigate the validity of reports of dehumanizing treatment of Armenian detainees regardless of their status and ensure those still in custody are provided with all protections required under international human rights and humanitarian law, including freedom from torture and inhuman treatment, and that details of their repatriation are provided,” added Behrendt.
“As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is obligated to fully cooperate with the court and provide all requested information to facilitate a transparent investigation of these serious issues,” explained Behrendt.
By the end of February 2021, Armenia’s Representative Office at the European Court of Human Rights had asked the court to intervene with Azerbaijan regarding 240 cases of alleged prisoners of war and civilian detainees. In approximately 90 percent of those cases, the office said, they had provided photo and/or video evidence confirming that Azerbaijani forces had taken these people into custody.
Official Baku insists that Armenians that are currently being held captive in Azerbaijan were arrested following the November 9 agreement and are being treated as terrorists.
In its 2021 and 2020 annual reports, Freedom House rated Azerbaijan as “not free” state and this year also categorized Azerbaijan as “Consolidated Authoritarian Regime.”