Relatives of Armenians detained in Baku stage a sit-in protest to demand their return
Relatives of Armenian citizens detained in Azerbaijan after the second Karabakh war are staging a sit-in protest which started on the evening of June 23. Families of the detainees demand specific information about the current situation of their loved ones and their immediate return to Armenia.
The decision to hold a protest was made after a meeting with acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. According to the relatives of the Armenian prisoners, they were not satisfied with the results of the meeting.
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“We have nowhere else to go”
“There is not a single structure left in Armenia or Karabakh, as no matter where we apply, nobody refuses to help, however, to no end. Seven months have passed. Everyone says – today, tomorrow, in a month. But they are not giving us specific dates”, said one of the protesters.
The relatives of the prisoners announced an indefinite sit-in protest which will last until the issue is resolved.
“We have nowhere else to go. This is the only way left”, said another protester.
The protesters told reporters that at a meeting with the acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan they received no encouraging information from him.
“He cannot say anything concrete. He asks us to wait, be patient. But my patience has run out”, said one of the protesters gathered outside the government building.
Another protester explained that the sit-in is addressed not only to the Armenian authorities but also to international structures.
Mels Hambardaryan, whose brother is now detained in Azerbaijan, said that all the protesters are most concerned about the “absurd trials of Armenian prisoners in Baku”:
“Our guys are there alone, without any help. We call on international organizations to send mediators and take measures to preserve the rule of law. We call on the authorities of the Republic of Armenia to file a lawsuit against Azerbaijan as soon as possible, as it violates a number of international treaties, as well as the Geneva Conventions, to which it has been a party for 21 years. This must be done very quickly so that we can stop Azerbaijan”.
Citizens of Armenia detained in Azerbaijan
Until recently, the exact number of people held captive in Azerbaijan has not been reported in Armenia. Only a few days ago Nikol Pashinyan said that the confirmed number of Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan at this moment is 60 people. The prime minister said that there is also some information about another 110 detained persons.
Meanwhile, human rights activists believe that the number of people held in Azerbaijan is much higher and may reach up to 200 people.
Baku refuses to return the prisoners, stating that some of them are saboteurs accused of being “soldiers of luck, terrorists and war criminals”. In Azerbaijan trials against Armenian prisoners are already underway.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry, commenting on the situation, stated that Baku uses prisoners of war as political hostages.
The Ombudsman of Armenia believes that the trials of Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan completely contradict the principles of international law. Cases against them are justified by the “confessions” of the prisoners themselves.
After the war, 89 prisoners returned to their homeland. The last group of 15 prisoners returned to Armenia on June 12. In return, Armenia provided maps of minefields on the territory of the Agdam region, which came under the control of the Azerbaijani side following the results of the second Karabakh war.
The exchange of prisoners and other detainees, as well as the bodies of the dead, is stipulated in the trilateral agreement of November 10, 2020 on the cessation of hostilities, which was signed by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia has already returned all Azerbaijani prisoners, including those who were convicted in Karabakh for grave crimes and murders before the last war.