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Human Rights Lawyer Says Azerbaijan Tries To Get More Armenian Captives for Political Gain

Human Rights Lawyer Says Azerbaijan Tries To Get More Armenian Captives for Political Gain
Photo: Press service of Armenian Defense Ministry

Azerbaijan's policy is aimed at getting more Armenian captives. Human Rights Attorney Siranush Sahakyan, Head of the "Center for International and Comparative Law" NGO, says Azerbaijan is leveraging the issue of Armenian captives for political purposes. Speaking at a discussion held at the American University of Armenia, Sahakyan highlighted Azerbaijan's deliberate policy aimed at capturing Armenians, including civilians, to further its political agenda.

Sahakyan highlighted Azerbaijan's pattern of capturing Armenians, dating back to November 10, 2020, and escalating during the Azerbaijani military aggression in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) on September 19-20, 2023. Despite international efforts, Azerbaijan has only returned 210 Armenians, leaving 23 individuals, accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in Azerbaijani captivity. Among these captives are elderly individuals who participated in the first Artsakh war, subjected to particularly harsh treatment by Azerbaijani captors.

One notable case highlighted by Sahakyan is that of Vicken Euljekjian, a Lebanese Armenian whose Lebanese citizenship is exploited by Azerbaijan to falsely accuse Armenia of employing mercenaries. Additionally, Sahakyan mentioned cases of Armenian youths captured in November 2020 and other incidents from the past year. She emphasized the plight of those captured, including elderly individuals and former leaders of Artsakh, who remain in Azerbaijani custody.

Moreover, Sahakyan drew attention to 80 cases of enforced disappearance, where Armenian soldiers under Azerbaijani control vanished without a trace. She stressed the abundance of evidence, including video recordings and eyewitness accounts, confirming their captivity.

The delicate nature of this issue was underscored by Sahakyan, who revealed Armenia's authorities' difficult decision to hand over Azerbaijani criminals in exchange for Armenian captives' release. She criticized Armenia's involvement in such exchanges, highlighting the violation of the deceased's rights.

Sahakyan also addressed the challenges of advocating for the return of Armenian captives, particularly in garnering international support. Despite efforts by human rights advocates collaborating with organizations in the European Union and the United States, Sahakyan lamented the difficulty of persuading international bodies to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan without strong political backing from Armenia.

While Sahakyan acknowledged the potential role of the International Criminal Court in holding Azerbaijan accountable for its actions, she noted Armenia's reluctance to pursue individual criminal accountability through interstate lawsuits. Despite these challenges, Sahakyan remained optimistic about the possibility of leveraging legal avenues to secure the release of Armenian captives held in Azerbaijani prisons.


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