The human rights organization confirmed, through an expert analysis of a video released online, that Azerbaijani troops unlawfully executed Armenian prisoners of war.
by Mark Episkopos,
The alleged execution of seven Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) last month by Azerbaijani forces is a war crime, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
A video, published on Telegram in early October, allegedly depicted Azerbaijani troops shooting a group of unarmed Armenian POWs. Human Rights Watch said it “verified the forty-second video through a variety of techniques, including by consulting with weapons and medical experts, analyzing the language heard in the video, and using reverse search image engines to establish if the video had been posted online before mid-September.”
“These soldiers had been captured and laid down their arms. Their captors had an obligation to treat them humanely, and instead it appears that Azerbaijani forces shot them in cold blood. Now they need to be held accountable,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan announced earlier this month that it launched an investigation into the alleged extrajudicial executions of Armenian POWs at the hands of Azerbaijani troops. “Azerbaijani authorities should ensure that the investigation opened by their prosecutor’s office is effective and leads to accountability for the soldiers and commanders responsible,” wrote Human Rights Watch.
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman Kristinne Grigoryan said her office confirmed the authenticity of the video, which was allegedly filmed on September 13 during an Azerbaijani assault on Armenian territory. “The fact is confirmed by the study of the terrain, comparison with similar videos available in our and other databases, as well as the complex combination of weather conditions, uniforms of servicemen, the conversation of Azerbaijani servicemen and other parameters,” Grigoryan said.
Armenian and Western observers have accused Azerbaijan of committing a slew of war crimes during clashes last month near the Armenian border. A video published on September 16 allegedly appeared to show the stripped and mutilated body of a female Armenian soldier being taunted by Azerbaijani troops.
Deadly border clashes erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan in September as the two sides traded blame over violating the terms of a fragile Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Genocide Watch issued a “genocide warning” against Azerbaijan last month, citing the country’s “unprovoked military attacks against Armenia.” The organization called on the West to halt all weapons sales to Baku and to impose sanctions on Azerbaijani energy exports if the purported attacks continue.
French president Emmanuel Macron accused Azerbaijan of launching “a terrible war, with many deaths, atrocious scenes,” according to France 24. “Azerbaijan has launched several offensives along the border (with Armenia). We have condemned them. We will not abandon Armenians,” he said this week. On Friday, Baku denounced Macron’s remarks as “unacceptable and biased,” adding that “Azerbaijan is forced to reconsider France’s efforts in mediating” Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.