ΙΔΡΥΜΑ ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΙΚΩΝ ΟΜΟΓΕΝΕΙΑΚΩΝ ΣΠΟΥΔΩΝ
16 OCTOBER 2020 STEPANAKERT, REPUBLIC OF ARTSAKH
Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................... 3
1. Humiliating treatment of dead bodies ......................................................................................................... 4
2. Treatment of Prisoners of War .................................................................................................................. 10
3. 3. Killings of Civilians .............................................................................................................................. 15
Annotation ......................................................................................................................................................... 17
Starting from September 27, 2020 Azerbaijan began launching indiscriminate and deliberate military aggressive air and artillery attacks against the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), including the peaceful population, along the entire line of the border. Villages, towns and the capital Stepanakert are being continuously targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Large-scale violence and damages have been already caused to civilians. Life and health of Armenian children, women and the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh is under a very real threat. The details are given in the updated edition of the second interim report of the Artsakh Ombudsman.
Since that, massive hate speech towards ethnic Armenians has been disseminated through social and mass media continuously showing systemic Armenophobia and calls for severe violence towards ethnic population of Artsakh.
In parallel with the abovementioned, plenty of photos and videos depicting violence and ill-treatment towards the prisoners of war and dead bodies of members of Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army (hereinafter referred to as NKDA), have been circulated through the social network platforms.
The results of Azerbaijani state supported hate speech against ethnic Armenians were revealed also during the Azerbaijani offensive towards Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016. Within his ad hoc reports the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh addressed a wide range of human rights issues stemming from the Azerbaijani aggression, including beheadings, torture, and mutilation of combatants’ and civilians’ dead bodies, as well as indiscriminative shelling of civilian objects, etc2.
1 Artsakh Ombudsman, “The Updated Edition of the Second Interim Report on the Azerbaijani Atrocities against the Artsakh Population in September-October 2020,” 13 October, 2020, https://artsakhombuds.am/en/document/735
2 Artsakh Ombudsman Interim Public Report Legal Assessment Facts on Human Shielding and Use of Indiscriminate Attacks Against the Civilian Population of Nagorno Karabakh by Azerbaijani Military Forces,May 2, 2016: Avail able at: https://artsakhombuds.am/hy/document/566.
1. Humiliating treatmentHumiliating treatment of dead bodiesof dead bodies
The circulating video and photo evidence proofs the inhumane and extremely cruel features of Azerbaijani military forces that are expressed towards the members of NKDA, who either rendered hors de combat or have been killed. The photos and videos which are presented and attached to this Report demonstrate that the Azerbaijani armed forces treat members of NKDA (prisoners of war) and dead bodies in gross violations of International Humanitarian Law.
Accordingly, the screenshots (a,b,c) of a video (Annex 1)3 uploaded to Twitter on October 10, 2020 show the disrespectful and violent treatment of dead bodies of the members of NKDA.
Particularly, in the images (a) and (b) the representative of the Azerbaijani armed forces hatefully hits the head of the dead body and in the image (c) the same person presses the arm of another killed member of NKDA with his leg.
3Annex 1 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
The monitoring of social media initiated by the Human Rights Ombudsman also indicates a dangerous tendency of Azerbaijani armed forces of taking pictures with the dead bodies of NKDA members, as showed in the images (d) and (e). These kind of actions are totally degrading, disrespectful and outrage the personal dignity of the killed soldiers.
Likewise, member of Azerbaijani armed forces records a video (Annex 2)4 to show the dead bodies of killed members of NKDA with insulting expressions. In the record the member of Azerbaijani armed forces posed for “selfie” with dead bodies (see images (f), (g), (h)).
4Annex 2 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
Another video (Annex 3)5 demonstrates the violent and totally disrespectful approach of the Azerbaijani armed forces towards the dead bodies of the members of NKDA. In particular, the mentioned video depicts the movement of military vehicles running over dead bodies of NKDA members lying down on the sides of the road. Only one military vehicle is visible in the video, however, it is obvious that the person shooting the film was riding on another vehicle, which also run over dead bodies as the traces of the vehicle crossing the bodies are visible (see images (i), (j) and (k)).
Furthermore, the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh has published the Updated edition of the Second Interim Report on the Azerbaijani Atrocities against the Artsakh Population in September-October 20206. The mentioned report provides a case of beheading and mutilation of the body of the NKDA member by the Azerbaijani armed forces (see image (l)), which is an extreme and inhumane violence and is absolutely prohibited.
5 Annex 3 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
6 The Updated Edition of the Second Interim Report on the Azerbaijani Atrocities Against the Artsakh population in September-October 2020, October 13, 2020. Available at: https://artsakhombuds.am/en/document/735.
The fact-finding of the Human Rights Ombudsman found another photo at the Azerbaijani social media (see the image (m)), where a serviceman of the Azerbaijani special forces was holding the severed head of an Armenian serviceman. The analysis of the photo confirmed its reality.
Concerning these disrespectful acts of humiliating of dead bodies by the Azerbaijani armed forces, it is important to highlight that in the International Human Rights Law the overarching principle is that of personal dignity, which is considered an inherent and inalienable human right of the living, foundational to human beings to such an extent that it continues to apply posthumously.
The International Humanitarian Law protects the dignity of persons involved in armed conflicts both during their lifetime and after death and prohibits any kind of outrages upon personal dignity. The key principle is that the persons rendered hors de combat (surrendered, wounded or otherwise disabled) and the dead bodies should be protected from any kind of ill-treatment. The bodies of enemy combatants should be treated with respect. These points have also been developed in the Customary International Humanitarian Law and were applied by international judicial instances (such as International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).
In particular, Article 16 of the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War prescribes that (…) each Party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken to search for the killed and wounded, (…) and to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment.
The Article 34 (1) of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) provides that the remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities and those of persons not nationals of the country in which they have died as a result of hostilities shall be respected (…).
Moreover, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court committing outrages upon personal dignity constitutes a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts (Article 8(2)(b)(xxi)). The elements of this crime include the humiliating, degrading or otherwise violating the dignity of one or more persons, including dead persons by perpetrator.
In the light of the abovementioned, the Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman stresses out that the Azerbaijani armed forces commit humiliating acts outraging the personal dignity of dead bodies of NKDA members grossly violating the principles of International Humanitarian Law. It should be emphasized that those acts are also closely related to the calls for severe violence and hatred towards ethnic Armenians and even aggravates thereof.
The representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman visited the morgue of Artsakh and check whether the dead bodies of the Azerbaijani military servicemen keeping there have any signs of mutilation. They recorded no mutilations made on the bodies.
2. Treatment of Prisoners of Treatment of Prisoners of War
The monitoring by the Human Rights Ombudsman reveals the offensive elements of the treatment of the prisoners of war and wounded by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
In one of the video evidences (Annex 4)7 the Azerbaijani armed forces surrounded a wounded member of NKDA (former combatant), who was partially undressed and was lying without trousers. During filming one of the soldiers covered the undressed part of the wounded soldier’s body (see images (n) and (o)). It is obvious from the record that the lying soldier still breaths, however no kind of medical assistance is provided. Instead, the Azerbaijani soldiers treated the wounded member of NKDA in a degrading manner undressing him and celebrating their “victory” over him screaming that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan”. The voices of gun shooting and applauses are also heard in the video.
Moreover, the Azerbaijani armed forces are also targeting the vehicles envisaged for transporting of wounded members of NKDA, as well as, a hospital serving both combatants and civilians. Directing attacks against these means of medical transport with the distinctive emblems of red cross (see images (p) and (q)) and hospital by Azerbaijani armed forces gravely violates the International Humanitarian Law and constitutes a war crime.
7 Annex 4 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
The Armenian prisoners of war are also being filmed for short videos where they are apparently being forced to repeat the words of Azerbaijani soldiers concerning the supremacy of Azerbaijani authorities, in particular the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Moreover, the prisoners of war are being forced to make insulting declarations towards the Armenian authorities (see the images (r) and (s) and Annexes 58 and 69).
8 Annex 5 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
9 Annex 6 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FnVCCYLyw12VIN78GAxsJgqXhElFdb1n?usp=sharing
In one of the videos (Annex 7)10 published on the Azerbaijani social media it is clearly visible how Azerbaijani servicemen are humiliating two Armenian prisoners of war (an elderly civilian and a former combatant) and brutally killing them in Hadrut town of Artsakh (see images (t) and (u)). The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied any connection with that video after which the Azerbaijani social media pages starting removing it from their platforms. However, the Human Rights Ombudsman found sufficient proofs showing that the first source of the video was a leading Azerbaijani telegram page (see image (v)). Moreover, internationally credible Bellingcat platform published a thorough investigation proving that it was a genuine video.11
10 Annex 7 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GlXDsDe-nsWYge8-BKhUQKhukmFUfqTq/view?fbclid=IwAR30hejo7XhwwMF2FfaO42z79Awhf76cHEWZv_e866lVtDOCjXJF2HCyFAg
11 Bellingcat.com, “An Execution in Hadrut,” 15 October, 2020, https://www.bellingcat.com/news/rest-of-world/2020/10/15/an-execution-in-hadrut-karabakh/?fbclid=IwAR0bc-g-8F6bTRIHUiEfPnn7ZducVMw8C8Qpb20EtvuOVzPvRsAzhMiIU7U
It should be stated that one of the main principles of the International Humanitarian Law is to differentiate combatants and non-combatants. Non-combatants are to be spared from various forms of harm. This category includes not only civilians but also former combatants, such as prisoners of war and fighters rendered hors de combat because they are wounded, sick or have surrendered.
One of the key principles of International Humanitarian Law is protecting wounded and sick in armed conflicts. This principle is established by the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Particularly according to Article 16 of the mentioned Convention members of the armed forces (...) who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances. They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict in whose power they may be, without any adverse distinction founded on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or any other similar criteria. Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated, subjected to torture (...), they shall not wilfully be left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created.
Further, Article 46 of the mentioned Convention provides that reprisals against the wounded, sick, personnel, buildings or equipment protected by the Convention are prohibited.
However, the video evidence indicates that Azerbaijani armed forces treat wounded member of NKDA inhumanly by undressing him in a degrading manner, not showing a single effort to provide medical assistance, instead celebrating their “victory” over him with insults. These acts obviously constitute a grave breach of the International Humanitarian Law. Notably, the Article 13 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War adopted on 12 August 1949 provides that prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
According to the Article 17 of the mentioned Convention: no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
The Human Rights Ombudsman stresses out that such treatment of wounded and prisoners of war by Azerbaijani side is extremely unacceptable and should be stopped immediately. Torture or inhuman treatment towards these persons is gravely breaching the fundamentals of the International Humanitarian Law. Thus, the actions of Azerbaijani armed forces should be condemned in an appropriate manner.
The Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan visited hospital & met the Azerbaijani prisoner of war who has been injured and getting medical treatment at the hospital (see the image (w)). The Ombudsman had a talk with him and made sure that he didn’t have any complaints on treatment and conditions. His only wish was to return to his home and family.
3. 3. Killings of Civilians Killings of Civilians
Furthermore, in the context of the brutal and violent approach of the Azerbaijani armed forces towards NKDA members, it is also important to mention that the Azerbaijani armed forces commit atrocities also towards the peaceful civilian population of Artsakh, which is totally unacceptable.
The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh in the frames of the fact-finding mission stated that on October 10, 2020 at 12:00 pm, after the humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan came into force, at least 8 civilians have been killed in Artsakh by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
In particular, on the afternoon of October 10, 2020 the members of an Azerbaijani subversive group that invaded the city of Hadrut, killed at least four civilians, including a person with disability and his mother.
The results of the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh point out that the subversive group of Azerbaijani armed forces deliberately killed the civilian with disability even though the latter raised his hand supposedly to show that he was unarmed at his home, which is assumed by the wound on his palm (see the images (x) and (y))12.
It is worth to stress out again that the International Humanitarian Law protects all non-combatants from various forms of harm in armed conflict. The prohibition of the violence to life is one of the most fundamental principles of the International Humanitarian Law, which is strictly prohibited by four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
12 The Updated Edition of the Second Interim Report on the Azerbaijani Atrocities Against the Artsakh population in September-October 2020, October 13, 2020. Available at: https://artsakhombuds.am/en/document/735.
In this regard, it is clearly specified in the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions, that violence to life, in particular murder of all kinds are prohibited with regard to persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces placed hors de combat by wounds, or any other cause.
Moreover, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court willful killings of persons protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention constitutes a war crime (Article 8 (2)(a)(i)).
Besides, the recognition of the special respect and protection due to the disabled and infirm is contained in various provisions of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions relating to their evacuation and the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. The Fourth Geneva Convention provides that the infirm “shall be the object of particular protection and respect” (Article 16).
During armed conflicts persons with disabilities are at greater risk of violence. According to the International Humanitarian Law, state parties should ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities. The Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman highlights that the obligation to treat persons with disabilities humanly and protect their right to life should be applied in all circumstances.
The acts of extreme violence towards the peaceful civilian population, especially towards persons with disabilities and women by Azerbaijani armed forces should be strictly condemned by the international organizations and world community at large.
The institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh is an independent national human rights institution functioning with Paris principles. It was established in 2008, according to the Constitution and the Law on Human Rights Ombudsman.
The first Human Rights Ombudsman was Yuri Hayrapetyan, who served in 2008-2016.
The second Human Rights Ombudsman was Ruben Melikyan, who served in 2016-2018.
The incumbent Ombudsman is Artak Beglaryan, who has been elected on October 31, 2018.
Postal address: 1 Knunyantsneri street, Stepanakert 375000, Artsakh
Telephone: +374 (0)-47-979045, (0)-47-979046.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtsakhOmbuds Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtsakhOmbuds
Δεν μου αρέσει ο πόλεμος, αλλά προτιμώ να τον κάνω νωρίτερα παρά αργότερα.