The Armenian prisoners of war, including civilians, kept by Azerbaijan after the 2020 war were subjected to coordinated state-sanctioned physical and psychological torture, Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan said at a news conference, presenting an emergency report by lawyers and human rights advocates regarding the responsibility of the Azeri government for the gross violations of human rights, ill-treatment, torture and inhumane treatment against Armenian captives in Azeri custody.
Ombudsman Tatoyan stated that the Azeri military tortures the Armenian POWs based on ethnic discrimination, i.e. only because they are Armenian.
“Certainly, the cruelest treatment happens right after being taken captive, especially committed by operatives of special forces. For example, there are cases when they’d thrown the food on the ground and forced the captives to eat it. Or there was a case when they gave only 10 seconds to finish eating, and then threw the food into the trash. Often, they’d put their finger onto the wound, so that people start asking and begging for treatment or food. They would also deliberately splash cold water on naked POWs in cold weather and keep windows open,” Tatoyan said.
The soldiers who’ve been freed and brought back to Armenia told the Ombudsman that when representatives of the Red Cross were to come for visits, the Azeri military would change their treatment beforehand.
The Azeri servicemen would treat the Armenian POWs with special cruelty while trying to obtain information, such as personal information. The Armenian POWs were forced to make anti-Armenian and pro-Azeri statements.
Tatoyan says they have clear facts on many cases of the POWs being forced to make fake statements.
As an example, Tatoyan said: “One of the soldiers was forced to say that he has killed 50 Azerbaijanis at a wedding in Zangelan.”
Especially cruel treatment was displayed against veterans of the First Nagorno Karabakh War and the 2016 April War.
“Cases when people were tortured in the public are especially deplorable, for example in hospitals. Passersby, for example patients, were spitting on the Armenian captives, and it happened in the presence of an Azerbaijani special services agent,” Tatoyan said, adding that even Azeri doctors have committed violence against the Armenian POWs.
An Armenian POW was stripped naked and the Azeri servicemen poured boiling water or tea on his body, before severely beating him. The POW was unable to walk for 21 days after this.
In addition to all the abovementioned, Tatoyan says the Azerbaijani authorities are also guilty in violating the religious rights of the Armenian POWs, by having forcefully taken their crosses.
Human rights advocate and lawyer Siranush Sahakyan added that three state bodies of the Azeri government were primarily involved in torturing the Armenian captives – the Azerbaijani Military Police, the Investigative Detention Center and the jails under the jurisdiction of the justice ministry.
Punitive beatings took place in the Azeri national security service jails as well, she said.