Calling out Human Rights Organizations: The April War and the Second Interim Report of the NKR Ombudsman

The fact-finding mission of the NKR Ombudsman’s Office headed by Ruben Melikyan has published its second and so far the most comprehensive report on the systemic and grave violations of the International Humanitarian Law by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces covering the active phase of the armed conflict- between the early hours of April 2 and 12pm on April 5, when by active interference of the international community the ceasefire regime was restored.

The 28 page public edition of the report cautions, “The findings of the present report are alarming for the international community, in particular the international human rights community” and still await proper actions from the respective international human rights organizations.

Torture – Execution – Mutilation

The report focuses on Azerbaijani military behavior towards civilians and Armenian Defense Army soldiers, who fell under Azerbaijani control for short (from several minutes to one-two hours) or long (a week and more) periods and identifies three forms of elaborately executed war crimes – torture, execution and mutilation of dead bodies.

An excerpt from the report details, “27 out of the 31 NKR civilians and Defense Army servicemen (about 90%), who fell under control of the Azerbaijani armed forces as a result of the Azerbaijani military aggression against NKR, were tortured, executed, or mutilated.” Also registering that, “the war crimes had a systemic and well-organized nature,” as they were committed by all the regiments of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

18 NKDA servicemen’s bodies were returned to NKR authorities on 10 April in the framework of the exchange of human remains under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The next day, the NKR State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons issued a statement that “[in] the presence of the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the NKR State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons registered that all bodies of the deceased transferred by the Azerbaijani side had signs of torture and mutilation”.

A grave picture of April

Three Armenian servicemen were beheaded: Two were beheaded postmortem, one was executed by ISIS-style decapitation.

The most widespread war crime was mutilation (24 cases), including 21 cases of ear cuts-offs (often taken as war trophies).

There were 5 cases of torture (including hands cut off, and throats cut).

There were 7 cases of execution, mostly by gunshots.

Conclusion: Each of the listed actions clearly constitutes a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law. Under the International Humanitarian Law, Azerbaijan bears State Responsibility for the war crimes of its armed forces, and has an obligation to investigate and properly prosecute the perpetrators and others who bear responsibility. The perpetrators and their commanders are also individually responsible.

The still on-going fact-finding mission includes numerous on-site visits, dozens of witness interviews, consultations with military, medical and technical experts, as well as information requests to the respective authorities, and media monitoring.

See full report here