Photo credit: Ministry of Defense of Russia
By Lilit Arakelyan
Human Rights Watch demands accountability from Azerbaijani authorities after video footage shows the extrajudicial executions of seven Armenian prisoners of war (POWs).
In a 40-second video investigated and verified by Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijani soldiers are seen gathering and shooting eight Armenian POWs at close range using automatic rifles. Among the perpetrators was the cameraman who, following the executions, continues to fire several shots at the body of a fallen POW.
The executions took place shortly after the authoritarian regime of Azerbaijan launched invasions into the Republic of Armenia through drone and artillery attacks on September 12th and 13th of 2022.
According to international humanitarian laws under the Geneva Conventions, killing, mistreating, or torturing POWs is a war crime. Azerbaijan is not only bound by international law to desist from extrajudicial killings, but has also been ordered to do so by judges of the World Court. On December 7, 2021, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Azerbaijan not to harm captured persons and to prevent the incitement of racial hatred and discrimination targeted at Armenians as a result of their conduct during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.
“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 Human Rights Watch’s Director of the Europe and Central Asia division, Hugh Williamson.
The recent executions constitute just one of the numerous indiscriminate violations by Azerbaijan that the Center for Truth and Justice has documented since the ICJ order was instated. This is also not the first time that Human Rights Watch has investigated Azerbaijan’s war crimes against Armenians since 2020.
Accountability for war crimes is necessary to prevent future human rights violations and to prevent the continued impunity for past crimes. The lack of such accountability has manifested in the plight of the Armenian people ever since the Armenian Genocide, which played a pivotal role in the perpetration of the Holocaust. It is evident that the denial of human rights only leads to further violations, and undermines prospects for reconciliation and peace.