HRW: Armenian POWs executed by Azerbaijani soldiers

HRW: Armenian POWs executed by Azerbaijani soldiers
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The human rights group has said, after confirming of a mass killing of Armenian POWs, that the act constitutes a war crime for which there needs to be accountability.

After a comprehensive analysis of a video that was posted on Telegram on 1 October, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) verified that at least seven Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) were executed by Azerbaijani soldiers during a recent conflict between the two countries.

The authenticity of the video had earlier been confirmed by Armenia’s human rights ombudsman on 2 October.

The killings took place during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces that broke out in mid September, when Azerbaijan made incursions into Armenia and along the border," HRW said in its report, adding:

"Human Rights Watch verified the 40-second video through a variety of techniques, including by consulting with weapons and medical experts, analyzing the language heard in the video, and using reverse search image engines to establish if the video had been posted online before mid-September."

The report stated that the video showed 15 soldiers, apparently Azerbaijani, rounding up a group of eight unarmed men wearing Armenian military uniforms.

It continued:

"Nineteen seconds into the video, one soldier starts to fire with a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle into the group of unarmed men seated on the ground. A shout of 'don’t shoot,' (vurma in Azeri) is heard just after the shooting starts. At least two other soldiers join in the shooting. The shooting is at close range and lasts for an initial 12 seconds. Sporadic rifle fire continues thereafter until the end of the video. The shooting appears to kill at least seven of the men. Rohini Haar, an emergency physician with expertise in health and human rights, who is an adjunct professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health, told Human Rights Watch that the likelihood of survival from sustained close-range automatic and semi-automatic rifle fire in this manner is low."

HWR also analyzed several photographs posted to Telegram on September 13 at 10:30 a.m. CET, showing the bodies of nine apparently dead men in Armenian military uniforms, and confirmed that at least two of the bodies are of men who appear in the video.

HWR said that the execution of Armenian POWs constitutes a war crime for which there needs to be accountability.

“Killing soldiers who have surrendered is a heinous war crime,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. “Azerbaijani authorities have opened an investigation that, in addition to leading to accountability, needs to be a key element in ensuring that such outrages never happen again.”

He added:

“These soldiers had been captured and laid down their arms. Their captors had an obligation to treat them humanely, and instead it appears that Azerbaijani forces shot them in cold blood. Now they need to be held accountable.”