Joint-Letter in Support of Armenian POWs in Nagorno-Karbakh and Freedom of Religion in the Region

19 organizations and individuals join letter calling on the US State Department to place pressure on Azerbaijan to release Armenian prisoners of war and address religious freedom concerns in the region. 

While the welcome news was released this week that 15 Armenian prisoners of war were released, there are still hundreds of POWs who remain in Azerbaijani custody. Armenia’s Representative Office to the European Court of Human Rights has 240 cases of alleged prisoners of war and civilian detainees pending court intervention with Azerbaijan. 
The submitted joint public letter raises serious concerns with the US State Department regarding Azerbaijan’s refusal to return the remaining prisoners of war and captive civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh especially given the numerous credible reports of Azerbaijani forces subjecting the POWs and civilians to torture and other inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment.
[see: Human Rights WatchHART UK]. 

The letter also calls attention to the reports of Azerbaijani forces destroying historical houses of worship and engaging in speech calling for the eradication of the remaining Armenian population. 
The letter calls on the US State Department, in light of the above, to:

  • Ensure Azerbaijan immediately releases all its prisoners of war and captive civilians
  • Condemn Azerbaijan’s destruction of religious sites and to place pressure on Azerbaijan to ensure the protection of the remaining religious sites in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Apply Global Magnitsky Sanctions or similar measures on state officials who have been involved in war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh or called for the eradication of Armenians.
  • Work to effectively combat speech which dehumanizes Armenians, especially in schoolbooks.
    Review the Waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act With Respect to Assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan.

During a visit to Nagorno Karabakh in November 2020, I heard multiple reports of such mistreatment – including instances of torture, beheadings and desecrations of corpses – and claims that equivalent brutalities have been perpetrated by foreign jihadist fighters who receive payment for every Armenian beheaded [….] there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes, as happened during the previous war in the 1990s. Perpetrators of atrocities must be held to account. We must no longer turn a deaf ear to the suffering of the people of Nagorno Karabakh.”

– Baroness Cox, “Continuing Impunity”, April 2021.