As a result of the large-scale hostilities unleashed by Azerbaijan against the Artsakh Republic (Nagorno-Karabakh) on September 27, 2020, among other things, the issues related to the RA citizens and their rights in captivity in Azerbaijan remain unresolved. 

Section 8 of the Tripartite Declaration (1)  on the complete ceasefire and the end of all military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone as of November 10, 2020, clearly defines, that “An exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead is to be carried out”. Despite the above, RA citizens are still in captivity in Azerbaijan. Moreover, even after the signing of the ceasefire declaration, civilians continue to be captured. One of the mentioned cases is the case of Maral Najaryan who was captured on November 10, 2020 and who is in Baku prison now. This was also confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights (2). In its turn, according to the information (3) provided by the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh, at least 4 women prisoners are in Azerbaijan.

Despite the imperative of the return or release of all prisoners, the issue of prisoners is unjustly not discussed in high-level negotiations, and in Pashinyan-Putin-Aliyev negotiations the questions of human rights continue to be subordinated to the issue of unblocking transport ties, which is directly unacceptable from the point of view of protection of international humanitarian law. 

It should be noted that the norms of international humanitarian law regulate the law of war during a war (jus in bello). This is the branch of international law that aims to limit the impact of armed conflict by protecting those who do not take part in hostilities. In this way, it is important to emphasize the regulations of two Geneva Conventions: the Third Geneva Convention related to the treatment of prisoners of war (Third Geneva Convention) and the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War on the (Fourth Geneva Convention) adopted on August 12, 1949. 

These conventions not only refer to the protection of humanitarian treatment in all circumstances and without any discrimination, but also contain special provisions for the protection of the rights of women in armed conflicts. 

Article 14 of the Third Geneva Convention stipulates the principle of respect and honor for women. The article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines that “Women should be especially protected from any harassment on their honor, in particular from rape, forced prostitution or any form of indecent assault”. At the same time, the article 25 of the Third Geneva Convention defines, that “In any camps in which women prisoners of war, as well as men, are accommodated, separate dormitories shall be provided for them.” Same convention also defines the rules of health care for prisoners of war, as well as the provision of a hygienic environment, and in all camps where women prisoners of war are held, separate facilities should be provided for them to maintain a hygienic environment.

In turn, the 1974 UN General Assembly Special Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict also defines, that all necessary steps shall be taken to ensure the prohibition of measures such as persecution, torture, punitive measures, degrading treatment and violence, particularly against that part of the civilian population that consists of women and children. 

Based on the cases of special atrocities committed by Azerbaijan during the large-scale hostilities in the Republic of Artsakh, the ongoing anti-Arminianism policy in Azerbaijan and the extremely cruel treatment of prisoners of war, we consider the necessity to take effective steps to prevent possible violations of the rights of all captives.

Based on the above, we demand. 

From international human rights organisations: within the framework of their mandate and international humanitarian law guarantee the protection of human rights providing the adequate conditions for POWs women, including the right to be free from sexual and physical violence.

From the Government of the Republic of Armenia:  to realize active steps towards the process of the return of all captives.