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Armenia denounces Azerbaijan’s ‘war crimes’ after HRW report

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This handout picture released by the Armenia’s Government press service on November 12, 2020 shows Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addressing the nation in Yerevan, Armenia. – Fighting between Armenian separatists in the Nargono-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and Baku’s army erupted in late September and raged for six weeks, leaving more than 1,400 dead and forcing thousands to flee their homes. Critics of Pashinyan issued an ultimatum for him to resign before midnight on November 11 or face a massive protest movement after he agreed in the early hours of November 10 to halt the fighting with Azerbaijan for control of the disputed region. (Photo by Tigran MEHRABYAN / press service of Armenia’s government / AFP) /

Armenia on Friday accused Azerbaijan of committing war crimes during their conflict last year over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, after Human Rights Watch said Azerbaijan had mistreated prisoners of war.

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The ex-Soviet Caucasus countries had been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over the mountainous region in Azerbaijan, where fighting erupted in September, claiming the lives of some 6,000 people.

The six-week war ended after Azerbaijan made swift gains and Armenian capitulated to a Russian-brokered ceasefire under which it ceded swathes of territories to Baku.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in report Friday that Azerbaijani troops “abused Armenian prisoners of war…, subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment and torture.”

“Azerbaijan should also immediately release all remaining POWs and civilian detainees,” the advocacy group said.

Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan said the report proved that Baku committed “large-scale war crimes against Armenian prisoners of war”.

“The reports of ill-treatment and torture of Armenian POWs indicate systematic nature. Their continued captivity and torture may amount to crimes against humanity,” Naghdalyan told AFP.

Baku has denied the accusations, and insisted that all the Armenian prisoners were returned to Armenia.

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But Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said Wednesday that “Baku doesn’t consider Armenian troops detained in Karabakh after ceasefire as prisoners of war”.

He earlier accused Armenian forces of “grave violations of international humanitarian law tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Amnesty International in December urged both Baku and Yerevan to urgently probe “war crimes” committed by both sides.

While Armenia has not opened any investigations, Azerbaijan charged two of its soldiers in December for mutilating bodies of Armenian soldiers.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a war in the early 1990s.

Armenia’s defeat to Baku’s technologically superior army last year spurred a political crisis with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreeing this week to snap elections later this year.

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