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, the first day of Azerbaijan’s unprecedented assault on Armenia last month. She said the executions constitute a war crime.
Killing prisoners of war is considered a serious breach of the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties establishing international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.
Siranush Sahakyan, an Armenian human rights lawyer working on cases involving Armenians detained in Azerbaijan, said the video was filmed near the village of Ishkhanasar in Armenia’s southernmost Syunik region.
Ishkhanasar is not far from Sev Lake, the site of a major Azerbaijani incursion last May that left Azerbaijani forces in control of about 40 square kilometers of Armenian territory.
Meanwhile, Arman Tatoyan, Grigoryan’s predecessor, said his foundation identified the Azerbaijani troops shown in the video as members of a commando unit, one of a number of elite special operations units that Azerbaijan formed after the end of the 2020 Karabakh war.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said the new commando units undergo extensive military training in Turkey before they are deployed.
In response to the video, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan pledged his administration would use “all available international mechanisms to ensure investigation and accountability.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry released a similar statement, urging the international community to ramp up pressure on Azerbaijan and calling for the immediate release of all Armenians detained in Azerbaijan.
An unknown number of Armenians remains in captivity in Azerbaijan, where most have been convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
On Monday, Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of repeatedly failing to release Armenians in its captivity despite apparent agreements to do so.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan raised the issue with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, during peace talks in Geneva on Sunday.