Azeri War Crimes: A Year Later

As September 27, 2021 marks the one year anniversary of Azerbaijan’s warmongering aggression to reignite the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict and attempt to ethnically cleanse the Armenian population of the Artsakh region, these are some of the many examples of war crimes and human rights violations committed by the Azerbaijani regime.

Stepanakert, a city of 55,000, and numerous other settlements in Artsakh, were subject to indiscriminate shelling and bombing by Azerbaijani forces.

Civilian infrastructure across Artsakh were targeted including hospitals, shelters, residential neighborhoods, churches, and theaters. In October, Azerbaijan bombed a Cultural Center in the town of Shushi and flattened the structure. During this time, Stepanakert’s power plant and major electrical substation were targeted, which caused a regional outage. Hospitals and shelters which relied upon that power supply, were left vulnerable.

The Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh, Artak Beglaryan, alongside the Artsakh Ministry of Education, reported on November 2, 2020 that 61 schools and 10 kindergartens were shelled by the Azerbaijani military.

Several healthcare facilities were also targeted by Azerbaijan. On October 28, 2020, Stepanakert’s maternity hospital was hit with air strikes. The same facility was hit again with a Smirch missile on November 3, 2020. Earlier, on October 14, 2020, the military hospital of Martakert was also shelled.

Use of Cluster Munitions

Further evidence of Azerbaijan’s malicious motives in this war of aggression came from an October 23, 2020 report by Human Rights Watch. This report documents four incidents of Azerbaijan’s use of cluster munitions in Stepanakert and the town of Hadrut. They noted that they could not “identify any military equipment or bases in the three neighborhoods [in Stepanakert] where the attacks took place. Even if there had been, given the indiscriminate effects of cluster munitions, their use in a residential civilian setting is not permitted under the laws of war.”

Use of Incendiary Ammunition

On October 30, 2020, Armenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan, released a video of Azerbaijan’s use of white phosphorus munitions within Artsakh. Ethnic Armenians suffered numerous burns and large swaths of forest were devastated. Tatoyan stated, “These munitions have clear effects of mass destruction for the environment; now they are also used against civilians by Azerbaijani military forces and in this context are forbidden under international law.”

War Crimes Against POWs and Civilians

According to the Geneva Convention III, prisoners of war may be interned without any particular procedure or for no individual reason. The purpose of this internment is not to punish them, but only to hinder their direct participation in hostilities and/or to protect them. Since the trilateral treaty signed on November 9, 2020, Azerbaijan holds more than 200 prisoners of war with no serious intent of releasing them, and thus violating international law.

Several reports have been released showing the war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani regime and officers in regard to Armenian POWs and civilians. These war crimes include granting of no quarter, despite surrender; and arbitrary maiming and executing (including beheadings) of civilians and POWs, psychological and physical torture of POWs, and the unnecessary destruction of civilian property and cultural heritage sites.

The Armenian Council believes that there is no alternative to this conflict other than a peaceful resolution. Azerbaijani aggression must be denounced and thwarted by the international community.

The Armenian Council also continues to be convinced that a tangible and successful peace process requires a direct dialogue with the people of Artsakh with the full participation of the Artsakh authorities, based upon the internationally recognized principals of self-determination.