RFERL:Seven months after the 2020 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the International Committee of the Red Cross released images showing Armenian families expressing joy and sorrow as they watch video messages from captive soldiers.
By Amos Chapple
The following photos of the families of captured Armenian soldiers watching video messages from their loved ones speaking from captivity in Azerbaijan were taken by Gohar Ter-Hakobyan.
Zara Amatuni, a communications manager from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Armenia, declined to say exactly when the photos were taken but confirmed that the “highly emotional” photos were “very recent.”
Amatuni says that in late May a team from the ICRC visited Armenian soldiers in captivity in Azerbaijan. There, with the permission of the authorities, the team shot video messages of the Armenian detainees, which were shown to their families back in Armenia.
The ICRC also recorded messages from the Armenian families that will be delivered to the soldiers in Azerbaijan.
Yerevan claims around 200 Armenian soldiers remain in captivity in Azerbaijan, seven months after a Russian-brokered peace deal ended the 2020 war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijani authorities say only 70 ethnic Armenians are being held, most whom are from “a sabotage group” that crossed the border into Azerbaijan and “attacked both our servicemen and civilians.”
After recent prisoner exchanges, Yerevan claims to no longer hold any Azerbaijani soldiers captive.
Baku has not made any statements about prisoners held by Yerevan since a prisoner exchange in December. The return of detainees was one of the conditions of the peace deal between the warring sides.
A Human Rights Watch report concluded that the abuse of Armenian prisoners held captive in Azerbaijan is widespread. Released soldiers describe senior Azerbaijani officers acting largely professionally and in some cases actively protecting them. But they also reported beatings and abuse coming from low-ranking soldiers when commanding staff were not watching.
Senior U.S. diplomat Philip Reeker called on June 10 for the release of the POWs, telling RFE/RL: “I think it’s important to remember that this is about human beings. It’s about people on both sides of the conflict who are the children, the spouses, the parents of people, and we want to see all detained people returned.”