A fourth group of Armenians has been convicted in Azerbaijan as the trials of dozens of captives continues.
On Thursday, an Azerbaijani court sentenced 13 Armenian captives to six years in prison for ‘illegal border crossing’. They were initially accused of being terrorists, however these charges were later dropped.
The previous day, two Armenians, Gevorg Sujyan and Davit Davtyan, were sentenced to 15 years each in prison. Sujyan and Davtyan were taken captive on 11 November while taking humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh, Gevorg’s wife later told local media.
They reportedly disappeared from Lachin and were later seen in videos spread on Azerbaijani social media. The two were charged with ‘espionage and illegal border crossing’.
More than five dozen Armenian captives, most of whom were taken captive after the 9 November ceasefire agreement, are standing trial or have already been convicted in Azerbaijan on various charges. Azerbaijani authorities frequently refer to the captives as ‘terrorists’ while Armenia and several international organisations insist they are prisoners of war.
So far, 39 people have been sentenced to six years in prison in three trials, and another two to four years. Twelve others were sentenced to six months and were released and repatriated to Armenia in a Russian-brokered trade in exchange for landmine maps.
Lebanese-Armenian Vicken Euljekian, who was taken captive on 10 November from Shusha (Shushi) was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Russian-Armenian Eduard Dubakov, who was detained in Baku, near the trophy park, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘terrorist actions’ and ‘illegal border crossing’ .
Dubakov was arrested because he visited Nagorno-Karabakh in 2018 and participated in military training organised by a private organisation. According to prosecutors, he supported Armenia during the war and visited Azerbaijan in January this year to ‘commit provocations’.
‘POWs’ or ‘terrorists’
Armenian officials have said that the issue of prisoners of war, along with recurrent border clashes, has presented an obstacle to the further peace talks with Azerbaijan.
‘The complete implementation of the process of repatriation of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees held in Azerbaijan may create a constructive environment for the implementation of the 9 November Statement’, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry stated on 27 July, in response to his Azerbaijani counterparts criticism about a lack of ‘constructive steps’ from Armenia.
Armenia had applied to the European Court of Human Rights asking the court to demand Azerbaijan suspend the ‘fake and staged’ trials of Armenian captives, as Armenia’s Representative to the court described them. The motion for interim measures was rejected earlier in July.
‘Azerbaijan’s prosecution of Armenian Prisoners of war on illegal border crossing charges is a breach of Geneva Convention III’, Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus Director of Human Rights Watch wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
‘Captured combatants should have been afforded PoW status and returned after hostilities ended’.
Human Rights Watch, as well as several other international organisations, has recorded a number of cases in which Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives faced torture and mistreatment in Azerbaijan.
Armenia claims to have knowledge of at least 19 captives killed after being taken captive.
So far, the real number of Armenians being held captive remains unclear, around a hundred prisoners of war and civilians have been repatriated so far. Thirty of them were returned to Armenia in return for maps of landmines planted in Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
In response to calls from Armenia and others for their release, Azerbaijan has insisted there are no prisoners of war in the country, calling those being held captive ‘terrorists’ and ‘saboteurs’.
‘The Azerbaijani side has always taken the position of exchanging all prisoners of war on the basis of the “all for all” principle. As we have repeatedly stated, there are no Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan’, Azerbaijan MFA spokesperson Leyla Abdulayev stated on 2 June.
Abdulayev stated that those taken captive from Nagorno-Karabakh later last year, as well as those captured on 27 May in clashes between the two countries following an apparent Azerbaijani incursion into Armenia’s territory, ‘are not prisoners of war’.