Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Moscow on August 31 that the trilateral statement on November 9 referred to the release of prisoners of war who were held captive at that time.
In response to the journalist’s remark that Azerbaijan does not fulfill its obligations under Clause 8 of the trilateral statement signed on November 9, 2020, Lavrov noted: “At present, the Azerbaijanis are holding most of the group of Armenian servicemen who were taken prisoner in late November after the statement came into force.”
The Fact Investigation Platform tried to find out whether Sergey Lavrov’s statement was true.
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive against Artsakh. After 44 days of war, on November 9, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Russia Vladimir Putin issued a statement on the cessation of hostilities.
Clause 8 of the statement provided for an exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead.
On December 14, the largest group of 44 Armenian captives returned home.
On December 16, it was reported that more than 60 Armenian servicemen had been captured in the villages of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher in Hadrut Region.
Fip.am contacted the Office of the Human Rights Defender of Artsakh to find out whether, among prisoners of war held in Baku, there are persons who were captured before the November 9 statement. They reported that at least two such people are being held in Baku, namely, Alyosha Khosrovyan and Ludwig Mkrtchyan, both of whom were taken prisoner during the war before the statement took effect.
Ludwig Mkrtchyan was captured on October 20, 2020, and Alyosha Khosrovyan on October 3.
A lawsuit was filed against them in Baku, accusing them of torturing Azerbaijani prisoners during the war in the 1990s. Mkrtchyan and Khosrovyan have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Siranuysh Sahakyan, a lawyer defending the rights of prisoners of war in the European Court, told Fip.am that, among prisoners of war held in Baku, there are 5 people who were captured before the November 9 statement and are still being held there by force: “There is the night of November 9 to 10. Some of them were captured at dawn. In fact, the hostilities had not ceased fully. Three people were taken prisoner in this period. There is a controversy in that issue on whether the ceasefire had come into force or not?”
It should be noted that immediately after the ceasefire was established, Lebanese-Armenians Maral Najaryan and Vigen Euljekyan were captured in Shushi.
On the same day, on the way from Berdzor to Stepanakert, the founding president of the New Armenia Homeland-Diaspora Charitable NGO, Gevorg Sujyan, and his friend, Davit Davtyan, were captured.
Months later, on March 11, Maral Najaryan was released from captivity.
Trials against Vigen Euljekyan, Gevorg Sujyan and Davit Davtyan were held in Azerbaijan. Lebanese-Armenian Vigen Euljekyan was charged with mercenarism and terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Gevorg Sujyan and Davit Davtyan, accused of espionage, were sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Siranush Sahakyan also mentioned that there are currently 45 officially confirmed prisoners of war in Azerbaijan. These people have been tried, and according to the lawyer, there are illegal verdicts against them, based on which they have been imprisoned.
However, the real number of prisoners is not clear yet. “We have information that other captives are being held illegally, their number is simply being kept secret.”
Another clause of the statement has also been violated
It is noteworthy that the capture of several dozen Armenian servicemen in Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher also contradicted the November 9 statement, as, according to the first clause of the document, the parties shall remain at their current positions. Azerbaijan was unable to capture the two villages during the hostilities. They remained under the control of Armenian forces, and Russian peacekeepers were to arrive there. However, in fact, the Azerbaijani army violated the agreement after the ceasefire. On December 12, it launched an offensive, as a result of which Armenian servicemen were killed and taken prisoner. By the way, a few of the captives in that area have returned to their homeland.
Thus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s assertion that only those captured after November 9 are detained in Azerbaijan is incorrect. There are at least two prisoners of war who were captured in October. In addition, there are three people who were taken prisoner on the night of November 9 to 10, when it was not yet clear whether the statement had taken effect.