Four Azerbaijani service members who were filmed desecrating bodies and destroying gravestones in an Armenian cemetery have been arrested and charged.
Rashad Aliyev and Gardashkhan Abishov, both serving as junior sergeants have been charged with ‘insulting the bodies of Armenian servicemen killed during hostilities in the Zangilan region’. Two other soldiers, Arzu Huseynov and Umid Agayev, were charged with committing ‘insulting acts by destroying Armenian gravestones in the cemetery in Madatli village of Khojavend region’.
The soldiers in question have been placed into custody.
According to a statement released by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan, ‘necessary research will be conducted on other videos spread on social media and the public will be provided with detailed information about the results’.
The statement also reads that such ‘criminal acts committed by the servicemen of the Republic of Azerbaijan are inadmissible and contradict the mentality of the Azerbaijani people, which is tolerant, has multicultural values, and is historically humane’.
The statement adds that ‘persons who have committed similar violations will be brought to justice by taking measures provided by law’.
The arrests came after a large number of videos circulated online appearing to show Azerbaijani soldiers taunting, torturing, and executing captured men, as well as mutilating and otherwise degrading human remains.
In late November, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan stated that they had ‘analysed and studied’ the videos along with the Military Prosecutor’s Office 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, but that if the videos were real then ‘the perpetrators of such illegal acts will be identified and brought to justice'.
On 10 December, international rights organisation Amnesty International verified the authenticity of three videos showing killings during the Second Karabakh War. Two of the videos show the beheadings of Armenian civilians by Azerbaijani soldiers, and one shows an Armenian soldier driving a knife into the neck of a captured Azerbaijani border guard.
Amnesty International also verified an additional 18 videos showing the mistreatment of prisoners of war and the bodies of the fallen. Eleven of the videos show crimes committed by Armenian soldiers and seven by Azerbaijani soldiers. A full report by Amnesty on war crimes committed by soldiers during the conflict is forthcoming.
A large number of videos showing apparent war crimes, including the execution and the torture of POWs and civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, remain unverified at present.