By Mark Dovich
A graphic video showing Azerbaijani troops arbitrarily executing a small group of captured Armenian soldiers that went viral on social media Sunday has prompted widespread revulsion in Armenia and calls for accountability by the Armenian government.
Kristinne Grigoryan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, has confirmed the video’s authenticity and said it was filmed on September 13, during Azerbaijan’s unprecedented attack on Armenia proper last month, which left over 200 Armenians dead or missing and hundreds more injured, including civilians.
In a statement, Grigoryan called the executions shown in the video “yet another war crime committed by the Azerbaijani armed forces, the source of which is a consistent policy of Armenophobia by Azerbaijan,” pledging to raise the issue on the international stage.
Killing prisoners of war is considered a “serious breach” of the Geneva Conventions.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that “Armenia will use all available international mechanisms to ensure investigation and accountability, while Edmon Marukyan, Armenia’s ambassador-at-large, called on EU and U.S. authorities to recogize Azerbaijan as a “terrorist state.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry also released a statement calling for accountability and increased pressure on Azerbaijan by the international community, while reiterating calls for “the immediate repatriation of all Armenian prisoners of war and civilians illegally held in Azerbaijan.”
An unknown number of Armenians remain in captivity in Azerbaijan. Most have been convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Prior to last month’s attack, the Armenian government put the number of Armenian prisoners of war at fewer than 50, but several Armenian human rights lawyers have cast doubt on those figures, saying the real number of Armenians held in Azerbaijan is higher.
In a tweet written before Grigoryan confirmed the video’s authenticity, Toivo Klaar, the European Union’s special representative for the South Caucasus, said, “Another horrible video has emerged of Armenian prisoners of war apparently being executed,” adding that it “needs to be investigated and the perpetrators punished.”
Klaar’s failure to name Azerbaijani soldiers as the killers in the video prompted further outrage on Armenian social media.