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Amnesty International verifies ‘gruesome’ atrocity videos

10 December 2020
Video still via Amnesty International.

Amnesty International published a report verifying the authenticity of videos showing atrocities committed by Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers.

During the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, videos of war crimes, including extra-judicial executions, torture, the mistreatment of captives, and the desecration of the bodies of the fallen were repeatedly posted to social media. 

Almost all have been posted on Telegram, and many have only surfaced following the signing of the 10 November trilateral peace declaration which brought an end to active hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The authenticity of most of these videos had yet to be confirmed. With its 10 December report, Amnesty has now confirmed a total of 22 videos - twelve of them depicting crimes committed by Armenian forces, and ten depicting crimes committed by Azerbaijani forces. 

The videos confirmed by Amnesty include extrajudicial executions, mistreatment of prisoners of war (POWs) and other captives, and desecration of the dead bodies of enemy soldiers. 

The only killings the report directly verifies are two live beheadings by Azerbaijani soldiers and a video of an Armenian soldier driving a knife through an Azerbaijani soldier’s throat.  

Other videos pertain to the mistreatment of the bodies of the deceased and captives. 


‘In several videos, Armenian soldiers are seen cutting the ear off a dead Azerbaijani soldier, dragging a dead Azerbaijani soldier across the ground by a rope tied around his feet, and standing on the corpse of a dead Azerbaijani soldier,’ the report states. ‘In other videos, Azerbaijani soldiers kick and beat bound and blindfolded Armenian prisoners, and force them to make statements opposing their government’.

According to the report, Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab used digital verification techniques to confirm the authenticity of the videos. ‘Amnesty International’s investigation has authenticated the footage as genuine, and technical tests conducted on the videos indicate that the files have not been manipulated,’ the report reads. ‘The details of the injuries were also independently verified by an external forensic pathologist’.

International humanitarian law prohibits acts of violence against any detained person, as well as mutilation of dead bodies. 

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan stated on 21 November that it had opened an investigation into war crimes by Armenian forces. It had also stated that it would investigate videos showing war crimes being committed by Azerbaijani soldiers against Armenian soldiers and civilians. 

The Prosecutor’s Office also stated that they had ‘analysed and studied’ the videos and determined that many of the videos were fake. They added that they also had ‘serious doubts’ that the events shown in the videos were real.

The Armenian authorities have not yet announced any criminal investigations into war crimes shown in the videos.

Prisoners of war

Amnesty International’s report cites the Third Geneva Convention which states that  ‘prisoners of war must at all times be humanely’ and that ‘prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity’. 

Meanwhile, the exchange of bodies, POWs and captive citizens has not yet fully taken place.

Both sides have blamed the other for the delay, and it remains unclear why no exchange has yet taken place. The 10 November agreement that brought an end to the fighting stipulated the exchange of bodies and of prisoners of war.

Both sides have also advocated an ‘all for all’ exchange, with each releasing all of the captives being held at the same time. According to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, this includes POWs held from before the war

Joint searches for the bodies of fallen soldiers were launched on 13 November with the participation of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces alongside Russian peacekeepers and representatives of the International Centre for the Red Cross in Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

On 9 November, Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan stated that three Armenian captives were returned ‘through mediation from the Russian side’.