Armenian Ombudsman's report: Armenian prisoners are tortured, abused in Azerbaijan
Armenian prisoners of war who remain in Azerbaijan after the 44-day war of 2020 are being tortured and treated inhumanly, the report of the Office of the Ombudsman of Armenia presented to the journalists stated, providing facts and testimonies supporting this claim.
The report will be urgently submitted to international organizations and courts. According to the Armenian Ombudsman, there are also identified persons who need to be brought to justice.
Arman Tatoyan also said that on the basis of the collected factual material, Azerbaijan may incur political responsibility for violation of international humanitarian law.
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“Not only prisoners of war were tortured”
According to the Ombudsman, civilians were also subjected to inhumane treatment. One of them was beaten to death, and after death, the body remained in the prison cell for several days.
“There were cases when people were chained or handcuffed to heaters and subjected to violence”, said Arman Tatoyan.
The Ombudsman’s report says that the prisoners were left without water, food, not allowed to sleep, and fed after cruel torture and abuse.
“There were cases when food was thrown on the floor, people were forced to eat from the ground, then they took the food and threw it into the trash bin. They were given only 10 seconds to eat, and then they immediately took away the food and again threw it into the trash can. They spat on a plate and forced people to eat it”, said the Ombudsman.
He stressed that the prisoners were kept in unacceptable conditions, without hygiene items – soap and even toilet paper.
Attitude towards prisoners of war
According to the data collected by the ombudsman’s office, medical care was not provided to sick and wounded prisoners of war. Moreover, during the torture, police officers often beat the wounds in order to inflict more suffering.
“And when they were taken to a civilian hospital for a medical examination, passers-by – patients, medical workers – spat on the prisoners of war, beat them, mocked and humiliated them. This took place in the presence of a special officer accompanying the prisoners”, said the Ombudsman.
Tatoyan stressed that the prisoners of war were tortured in order to obtain the “required information”:
“One of the soldiers was forced to say in front of the camera that there was a wedding or birthday in Kovsakan [Azerbaijani name – Zangelan], he blew up this house with a grenade, as a result of which 50 Azerbaijanis were killed, adding that a neighbor approached him at that time, and he killed his neighbor as well”.
In conversations with the staff of the ombudsman’s office, the prisoners who returned to their homeland said that they were forced to sign documents in the Azerbaijani language. They were forced to admit that they had allegedly arrived in Azerbaijan to kill civilians, women, and children.
The report specifically stipulates that information obtained from Armenian prisoners by such methods cannot be the basis for their criminal prosecution.
According to Arman Tatoyan, the servicemen who participated in the so-called “April war” of 2016 and the military actions of Karabakh in the early 90s were subjected to especially cruel treatment.
“Consequence of the anti-Armenian policy of the Azerbaijani authorities”
According to the prisoners’ testimonies, the situation changed when the places of detention of the prisoners were visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross or Russian officials.
“Those who were treated better were taken out to meetings with them, they were prepared in advance. Some of the prisoners were transferred in groups to other rooms, basements so that they would not be seen,”, Tatoyan recounted their words.
The human rights defender drew the attention of journalists to the fact that during the torture, Azerbaijani officials used the same vocabulary as the Azerbaijani authorities.
According to the Ombudsman, torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners is “a consequence of the anti-Armenian policy of the Azerbaijani authorities”.
“Azerbaijan should be held accountable”
The conditions of detention of prisoners, the provision of medical care to the sick and wounded, the non-use of violence and the protection of honor and dignity are regulated by international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Prisoners of war should be kept in special camps, and not in prisons, closed institutions, said human rights activist Siranush Sahakyan. But such camps were not built in Azerbaijan after the war.
“All prisoners were imprisoned and kept in strict isolation. They had no opportunity to contact the outside world, which increases the likelihood of torture, as well as the ability to hide their traces”, said Siranush Sahakyan.
The human rights activist said that the Armenian prisoners of war are being held by the military police of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, in the investigative isolation ward of the special services, as well as in the isolation wards under the Ministry of Justice.
“We have a serious evidence base that the employees and management of these institutions were involved in the torture of Armenian prisoners. There are mechanisms for bringing to responsibility, with the help of which the direct perpetrators can be brought to justice”, said Siranugsh Sahakyan.
She also said that some of the Azerbaijani law enforcement officers involved in the torture have been identified. However, according to the human rights activist, first of all, it is necessary to take steps to bring Azerbaijan to justice. According to Siranush Sahakyan, within the framework of existing international legal acts, the European Union can apply sanctions to Azerbaijan for violation of human rights.