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Abuse of POWs by Baku - legal Aspects

In accordance with international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict, soldiers captured before and after the ceasefire must be recognized as prisoners of war and benefit from the protection of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 relating to the treatment of prisoners. of war (“Geneva III Convention”).

Under no circumstances may prisoners of war waive their rights under the law of armed conflict. They enjoy this status as soon as they are captured by the "enemy Power" (defined by the Geneva Convention III), they have been officially registered as prisoners of war or their capture has been recognized by their own government. . The responsibility for prisoners of war rests with the enemy Power, in this case the State of Azerbaijan (art. 12 of the Geneva Convention III).

Specifically, Azerbaijan's obligations under Geneva Convention III include:

● The obligation to treat prisoners of war humanely at all times. (...) and not to subject [them] to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experimentation of any kind whatsoever which would not be justified by the medical treatment of the prisoner concerned and which would not be in his interest (Article 13 of Geneva Convention III);

● The obligation to respect their person and their honor (Article 13 of the Geneva Convention III);

● The obligation not to subject prisoners to any physical or moral torture or coercion to obtain information of any kind from them, nor threats, insults, inconveniences or disadvantages of any kind (Article 18 of the Geneva Convention);

● The obligation to release and repatriate without delay after the end of active hostilities (Article 118 of the Geneva Convention III).

Moreover, in accordance with paragraph 8 of the statement of the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia on the ceasefire and the end of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh of 9 November 2020 , "The two parties are proceeding with the exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons, as well as the bodies of the deceased". 

However, Azerbaijan continues to detain illegally and refuses to authorize the return of nearly thirty-eight prisoners of war. Several NGOs (e.g., Human Rights Watch), institutions (e.g., the resolution of the European Parliament of 20 May 2021, the Council of Europe) and European courts (e.g., ECHR) have pointed out that Azerbaijan continues to torture and subject prisoners of war to inhuman and degrading treatment, including:

● repeated electric shocks and burns;

● Systematic beating;

● Humiliation by being forced to publicly kiss the Azerbaijani flag or to praise President Ilham Aliyev. 

Several recordings of such acts have circulated on the Internet and on social networks (Telegram, Tik-Tok, Twitter and Instagram), such as, for example:

● A wounded, helpless and disabled Armenian soldier is mercilessly executed with a bullet to the head (video posted on Twitter);

● A dozen Armenian prisoners of war are executed in groups with semi-automatic weapons (40-second video appeared in October 2022) (video verified by Human Rights Watch which concludes that this is a war crimesee also);

● The image of an Azerbaijani soldier holding the head of a decapitated Armenian soldier;

● An Azerbaijani soldier asks his colleague to record and watch. He fires a first time on a captured Armenian soldier and - after being solicited by the other soldiers - fires another twenty times on him.

Accordingly, Azerbaijan's failure to comply with paragraph 8 of the Trilateral Declaration and its continued treatment of prisoners of war contrary to its obligations as a hostile Power, the subjection to deliberate executions, torture, inhuman treatment and even beheading constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, as well as of the Third Geneva Convention III.

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