US Congress Is Asked to Hear Testimonies from Armenian Victims of Azerbaijani War Crimes
More Evidence Reveals Azerbaijan’s Ongoing Human Rights Violations
Azerbaijan continues to commit war crimes and human rights violations against Armenians nearly one year after the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) war ended. In an unprecedented move however, an independent organization has requested a US congressional hearing on war crimes committed against Armenians.
The Center for Truth and Justice (CFTJ), a nonprofit NGO headquartered in Los Angeles, CA announced today it officially submitted a White Paper to Congress members and foreign officials titled, “Initiating an Investigation: Azerbaijan’s Torture and Mistreatment of Armenian Prisoners of War (POWs) During and After the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.”
The report summarizes international law and human rights violations committed by Azerbaijan based on more than 150 recorded direct testimonials gathered from displaced Armenian families from Artsakh as well as released POWs exposing torture and mistreatment. The in-depth first-hand testimonies would later be used as evidence of war crimes should the US Congress decide to hear them.
“The evidence we have collected and referenced in the White Paper echoes the reports gathered by other fact-finding missions exposing the cruel and degrading mistreatment and torture of POWs. The stories, although collected independently, corroborate each other and provide sufficient basis to initiate congressional hearings,” CFTJ Board of Directors member and attorney Arsineh Arakel said during an exclusive interview.
The organization is also requesting that the United States formally addresses the status of the current Armenian POW crisis by demanding their immediate and unconditional release along with imposing sanctions and suspension of all security and military assistance. However, it anticipates that Azerbaijan will deny the war crimes, and expects continued “illegal detention” of Armenian POWs.
US congressional hearings analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking, including imposing sanctions and often include oral testimony or questioning of witnesses by Congress. The White Paper was served to various ranking Congress members including US Senator Bob Menendez, who serves as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and US Senator Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittees of Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, and Human Rights.
The CFTJ asserts the gathered testimonies from released POWs are sufficient enough to prove Azerbaijani soldiers continuously torture POWs in captivity. Those interviewed told CFTJ members that they were subjected to repeated torture, beatings, humiliation, solitary confinement, improper hygiene, lack of medical care and also said they were not allowed to speak to their families or legal representatives.
Additional evidence of war crimes revealed in the report describe how Azerbaijani soldiers struck the POWs with their fists, boots, batons, chains, guns and in many other cases bashed their heads against walls. They also testified that cigarette lighters were used to burn their fingers as they remained handcuffed while another released POW disclosed his teeth were extracted without anesthesia or apparent medical or dental justification. Others testified of being tortured with electrocution and their hands burned with lighters during interrogation sessions. The report also states many of the POWs complained of headaches and sinus conditions due to broken noses from beatings and suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At least 19 POWs have reportedly been executed by Azerbaijan since the end of the war.
Testimonies also revealed that many Armenian soldiers charged with crimes were coerced and intimated to sign false confessions. One POW was recorded stating he was beaten to the point of unconsciousness when he questioned why he was being forced to sign a document written in Azerbaijani language he did not understand. Further testimonials also exposed beatings, torture, deprivation of sleep, not being provided adequate clothing during harsh cold weather and the confiscation of personal belongings just before brutal interrogations.
“The United States considers itself a beacon of international human rights and we feel it is time that Congress is provided with information about the human rights abuses Azerbaijan continues to perpetrate against Armenians as told directly by the victims and survivors of these abuses. It is imperative for the US Congress to hear these testimonies and take firm action urgently,” said Arakel.
The CFTJ is comprised of a team of independent legal professionals initially formed to address human rights violations committed during the war and later began documenting war crimes against Armenians. The organization said it’s also working to amplify the voices of Armenians who have faced discrimination, ethnic cleansing, displacement or other mass atrocities. The gathered ancestral stories of the displaced Armenians of Artsakh also allows the CFTJ to prove the presence of ethnic cleansing in the territories now occupied by Azerbaijan.
“Congress and governments around the world should reassess their support and funding for Azerbaijan and demand the unconditional and immediate release of all Armenian POWs,” said Milena Malyan, Esq., Board member and co-founder of CFTJ. “Congress should hear directly from the survivors about the mistreatment to which Azerbaijan is subjecting Armenians. Azerbaijan’s actions are in gross violation of international law. Action must be taken now to release the illegally held Armenian POWs and hold the government of Azerbaijan accountable for their deliberate violations of the law.”
The White Paper also states that the inhumane treatment of POWs is having a profound psychological impact not only on the victims but their families and the Armenian community as a whole. As of today, the remaining 38 of the 62 Armenian POWs from the Khtsaberd region that were reportedly taken as prisoners have now been identified by name. Of the more than 200 Armenian POWs, including civilian women who continue to be illegally imprisoned, Azerbaijan has reportedly provided information on only 45 to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).