Hostages in flames of War: Limits of humanitarian law against Armenia

  Armenia as an aggressor country, has regularly caused illegal actions in Nagorny-Karabakh and 7 adjacent occupied territories of Azerbaijan by destroying the historical-cultural monuments, or in its intolerable treatment to villagers in the frontline and civilians taken hostage. Above all we must remember that all states have undertaken to obey the norms of international humanitarian law on persons no longer taking part in the fighting, the wounded, and sick, shipwrecked and prisoners of war.

No sovereign-legal state in the eyes of the international community, as the Armenian unseemly behavior violates their obligations under international humanitarian law in the country, which’s caused the negative precedents in international relations. A good example of the humanitarian crisis in Syria living around Aleppo city today that the current situation makes it necessary to punish Armenia by the international scope of the possible mechanisms.

How treat with civilians: those captured and taken hostage in armed conflicts of a non-international character that are also sensitive engagements concern for all member states of the international community??

Azerbaijani Hostages in Flames

But today it’s already more than two years before the eyes of the international community Armenia pursues an aggressive attitude towards the fates of two Azerbaijani hostages in Kalbajar district sandwiched between Armenia and Karabakh, Azerbaijani territories under the illegal control of armed forces of Armenia.

The illegal occupying Armenian regime in Nagorno-Karabakh has taken two Azerbaijanis hostage, after alleging that they had ‘tried to visit’ their own homeland on 12 July 2014. After a little time Armenia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that, the two men entered the Kalbajar region. The Ministry accuses two Azerbaijani hostages - Shahbaz Guliyev (aged 46 years) and Dilgam Askerov (aged 54 years) of fictitious sabotage and imprisoned in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

Both men originate from the region and are just two of the 1. 200. 000. Azerbaijani Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees who are the ongoing victims of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly denounced the trial as illegal and demanded the release of both men. It says that they had a legitimate right to visit what is an internationally recognized part of Karabakh Azerbaijani that has been under the illegal control of armed forces of Armenia since 1993. Then the norms of international law are next to which of these two parts: Armenia or Azerbaijan?

Legal basis

The two persons taken hostage are under the trusteeship of the Geneva Convention adopted on August 12, 1949, and the treatment towards them should be regulated under this convention. The Geneva Convention allows the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international organizations in protecting the human rights to visit all prisoners of war camps without any restrictions. The ICRC may also maintain, without witnesses, with the prisoners.

Article 3 of the Geneva Convention requires that all persons in the hands of the enemy are treated humanely, without any adverse distinction. It specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, the taking of hostages and unfair trials.

But the facts collected by the State Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons prove that the Armenian Republic tramples on the norms of international law, violating the 1949 Geneva Convention “On protection of war victims”, by killing, crippling, torturing, and psychologically damaging captured Azerbaijani citizens ”.  If the ICRC is the "guardian of international humanitarian law" and defender of victims of war, the implementation of the Geneva Conventions is the responsibility of States Parties, which undertake to "respect and ensure respect" that "in all circumstances" convention.

"On the contrary, Armenia's defense ministry is right when saying that they are not "prisoners of war", as these persons grew up in the Azerbaijani lands occupied by Armenia. And the treatment to the civilians is regulated by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, adopted August 12, 1949. This situation is fully reflected in the Article 4 of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the appropriate international structures have been informed about this," the State Commission said.1

Armenian separatist regime in Nagorny-Karabakh organized a theatrical staging of the court process in Khankendi, 27 Oct, 2014

In an absurd statement that demonstrates the lack of his understanding of international law, Seyran Ohanian, Armenian Defense Minister, went on to claim that both men had ‘illegally’ crossed the unrecognized ‘border’, espionage and kidnapping and would be liable for prosecution under Armenian and international law.

Article 4 of the Geneva Convention requires that persons belonging, or having belonged, to the armed forces of the occupied country, if the occupying forces considers it necessary by reason of such allegiance to intern them, even though it has originally liberated them while hostilities were going on outside the territory it occupies, in particular where such persons have made an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin the armed forces to which they belong and which are engaged in combat, or where they fail to comply with a summons made to them with a view to internment. The existence of sufficient evidence proved that these persons don’t belong to the category of military personnel. The release of two Azerbaijani hostages has become a politicized issue, the Armenian authorities complies with the norms that react its international obligations on human rights and humanitarian law, doesn’t allow the defenders organizations of human rights to visit the occupied regions to study the state of health of these people.

Because of the historical hatred behavior of Armenia towards Azerbaijani people Dilgam and Shahbaz have been deprived of these rights conformed to the Article 4 of the Geneva Convention. Consequently on December 19 2014, the "court” of the Armenian separatist regime in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh sentenced Dilgam Asgarov to life in prison, Shahbaz Guliyev to 22 years in prison. But we know giving a criminal or political hue to the subject is disrespectful towards international law norms, and the treatment of the detainees outside of these norms is unacceptable.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Refugees and IDPs Ali Hasanov recalled that, during a meeting on 16 December 2015 in Geneva with Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, he had requested ICRC humanitarian assistance in helping the hostages maintain contact with their families via web-based communication. He requested the assistance of ICRC in placing pressure on the Armenian occupying regime to facilitate it.

But the international efforts remain inadequate against the deconstructive attitude of Yerevan on the Azerbaijani hostages. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticizes Armenian government and voiced his regret that the staffs of his Office doesn’t have access to Nagorno-Karabakh, the message of September 14 2016 on the organization’s official website states.

“Consequently, conflicting claims of human rights violations cannot be verified, and the plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees has not received the kind of human rights scrutiny that it deserves for the past decades – either from my Office or from the international community,” he said. 2

During the ceasefire between the armed conflicts states the exchange of unarmed people or hostages are based on the principles of international humanitarian law. All states have their international commitments. Although this type of case is not the first time in the history of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The real border violator was Gevorgyan Yeghishe, who with his family consisting of five persons, violated the border of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan in a car on January 10, 2010, and was detained by Azerbaijani soldiers. At that time Azerbaijan could have treated them as border violators, but, respecting international law, Azerbaijan based treatment on the international humanitarian law principles with regard to Gevorgyan and his family.

The persons taken hostage in the Kalbajar district didn’t violate the state border of the Republic of Armenia, as it was claimed by the Armenian side, and they were within the territory of Azerbaijan, recognized by the UN. Let us recall that Kalbajar is one of the 7 Azerbaijani districts under the illegal control of armed forces of Armenia, which sandwiched between Armenia and Karabakh. The Nagorny Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts occupied since 1988-1992 by the Republic of Armenia make up 20 % of the territory of Azerbaijan. UN Security Council resolution 822, adopted unanimously on 30 April 1993, after expressing concern at the deterioration of relations between the Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the subsequent escalation of armed hostilities and humanitarian situation in the region, the Council demanded the immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces in Kalbajar district near Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. 3

Dilgham and Shahbaz were taken hostage within internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan: "No one and nothing but the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan cannot impose restrictions or prohibitions on the free circulation of Azerbaijani citizens on its territory or on its sovereign air space.

Armenia: a State without law

All this demonstration of the problem of hostages shows that the attitude of Azerbaijan is same as the path of justice: to respect international humanitarian law, which is a prerequisite for improving the situation of victims of armed conflict. Yerevan's dirty politics keep out of Shahbaz and Dilgam’s distressed health is dropped into the water the international co-efforts after the Four-Day War between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, and it causes direct negative impact on the negotiation process.

If there is a country that does not engage its international obligations to respect the territorial integrity, inviolability of borders of its neighbor and avoid the use of force is absolutely that’s Armenia. The origin of all these problems who knows, perhaps he based the impunity of Armenia and its disobedience of the 4 resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) of the Security Council on the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions occupied of Azerbaijan.

1. Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

2.UN Security Council resolution 822, adopted unanimously on 30 April 1993 on invasion of the Kelbadjar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan by local Armenian forces 71/IMG/N9324771.pdf?OpenElement

3.United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticizes Armenian government and voiced his regret that the staffs of his Office doesn’t have access to Nagorno-Karabakh, the message of September 14 2016