Azerbaijani human rights activists visit Armenians imprisoned in Baku
Azeri activists and Armenian prisoners
Human rights activists working under the Azerbaijani public advocate visited Armenian citizens who were arrested in Karabakh and sentenced to hard time in Baku. According to their report, prisoners have the opportunity to communicate with their families and are provided with medical services. Azerbaijan and Armenia interpret the status of these prisoners differently. According to one expert, Russia’s position in the matter is closer to Azerbaijan’s.
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Members of the National Preventative Group (NPG) for the Prevention of Torture under the Azerbaijani Ombudsman visited one of the temporary detention centers. This was stated in a message published on the official website of the public advocate’s office.
The messages states that the purpose of the visit was to investigate the conditions of imprisoned Armenian citizens convicted of crimes in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, after the signing of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020 on cessation of hostilities.
“During confidential meetings, it was discovered that the convicts have the opportunity to make telephone calls, correspond, maintain contacts with family, access information (television, publications), and are provided with medical services.
“The prisoners did not complain about the conditions of imprisonment nor treatment,” the source says.
It was also noted that during the visit, human rights activists observed that prisoners were provided with all essentials and not being discriminated against.
How many Armenian citizens have been arrested in Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan has not given an exact number of Armenian citizens imprisoned in the country.
According to the Armenian public advocate’s office, at least 41 soldiers and four civilians remain under arrest in Azerbaijan. This is stated in a report by Human Rights Watch published in 2022.
The document also notes that in 2021, Azerbaijan extradited over 100 detainees to Armenia.
The mass arrest of Armenian soldiers took place at the end of November 2020, half a month after the end of the second Karabakh war. Sixty-two Armenian soldiers were arrested in the Khojavend (Martuni) region of Karabakh.
Some time later they were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment in Azerbaijan.
“The trilateral statement of November 10, 2020, which put an end to the second Karabakh war, entails the return of all military personnel who were captured during hostilities in the autumn of that year,” comments Azerbaijani expert Mahmud Babayev.
According to Babyev, the status of Armenian soldiers in Azerbaijan is interpreted differently by the two nations:
“Armenia claims that these individuals are subject to the terms of the tripartite declaration. And each time, under the pretext of “solving humanitarian issues”, they demand the release of “prisoners of war”.
“Azerbaijan categorically disagrees with this. The statement refers to prisoners of war whom both nations had at the time of signing the document. If a ceasefire was declared on November 10, 2020, and in fact the war ended, then what kind of prisoners of war can we talk about with regard to the citizens of Armenia, who were arrested two weeks later?
“Here, the position of Russia, the main mediator in this conflict, is also of interest. It was given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the last meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. He said that these people were arrested after the end of the war, and thus cannot be considered prisoners of war.
“Azerbaijan has several times exchanged Armenian citizens for maps of minefields. But everything was done legally. A few days before the exchange, the courts decided to reduce the term of imprisonment to the period already spent behind bars.
“There have been no such exchanges for a long time. But often before high-level meetings, as a gesture of goodwill, Azerbaijan releases several imprisoned Armenian citizens. Given that two such meetings are planned by the end of August – in Moscow and Brussels – we can hope for the continuation of this process,” the expert said.