Human Rights Watch Accuses Azerbaijan of Abusing Armenian POWs

Human Rights Watch accused Azerbaijani forces Wednesday of brutalizing some Armenian troops captured in the conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.Acts of mistreatment were captured on video and circulated on social media over the past two months, HRW said.The rights group said in a statement the videos show “Azerbaijani captors variously slapping, kicking and prodding Armenian POWs” and forcing them to “kiss the Azerbaijani flag,” praise Azerbaijan’s president, swear at Armenia’s prime minister “and declare that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan.”HRW official Hugh Williamson said humanitarian law requires that POWs be protected, and he called on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately end the inhumane treatment.Ethnic Armenian soldiers sit in a military truck on a road during the withdrawal of troops from the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nov. 19, 2020.The number of POWs in custody is unknown but HRW, citing Armenian officials, estimated the number is in the “dozens.” Azerbaijan’s response to the HRW report was not immediately available.The report acknowledged that some of the prisoners depicted in the videos have since communicated with their families and said they are being treated well, but it said there remain serious grounds for concern about their safety and well-being.HRW also said Armenia has captured Azerbaijani troops and that it is investigating videos on social media that apparently show Azerbaijani POWs being abused.Armenia signed a Russian-brokered deal with Azerbaijan on November 9 after six weeks of intense fighting.The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted September 27, marking the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region since a 1994 cease-fire.The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war in which as many as 30,000 people died before a 1994 cease-fire was declared. That independence, however, is not internationally recognized.

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