The data on the number of Armenian prisoners of war on the Azerbaijani side as a result of the armed attack and military operations carried out by Azerbaijan on September 13 are not yet final.
Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mher Margaryan gave an official number, announcing that at least 7 prisoners of war have been identified. At the same time, he did not rule out that this number could increase.
However, Artak Zeynalyan, a human rights defender dealing with issues of prisoners of war, representative of prisoners of war at the European Court of Human Rights, says that the number of prisoners of war can reach 20.
“We cannot give precise information about their number. As of now, the data we have is summarized by the number of boys appearing in videos published in Azerbaijani sources and Telegram channels,” Zeynalyan said in a conversation with us.
The Chief of the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces Edward Asryan did not mention the number of Armenian prisoners of war either. “Regarding the prisoners taken by the enemy, I cannot mention numerical data, because we also have losses that are considered victims, but these victims may be alive. That’s why I can’t present numerical data,” he announced at a meeting with journalists in Jermuk on September 16.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which deals with the return of civilians and soldiers captured in war situations, is in contact with the families of Armenian prisoners.
“These days, many people visit our Armenian office to report that their relative soldier is in captivity. Or people are trying to get information if their relative soldier is in captivity,” Zara Amatuni, head of the ICRC delegation’s communication and prevention program in RA, told us.
According to her, they register the data of citizens who came to look for their relatives, so that they can contact them after exchanging data with the other party to the conflict.
“In order to transfer any information to the serviceman’s parent, it should be clarified and agreed with the Azerbaijani side. Naturally, we will first of all communicate all the answers to the serviceman’s family and relatives. We are in constant dialogue. At the moment, we have received confirmations from the Azerbaijani authorities that they have detained persons,” says Amatuni.
In the mean time, human rights defender Artak Zeynalyan is going to submit an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to apply an urgent measure in the near future, after which the main plaint will be presented.
According to Zeynalyan, this application aims to protect the right to life. In other words, the decision to apply an emergency measure can tie Azerbaijan’s hands in terms of torture and cruel treatment of prisoners of war. “The purpose of this application is for Azerbaijan to refrain from torturing, killing and taking other actions against Armenian prisoners of war,” says Zeynalyan.
The hostages were returned
A case of hostage taking by Azerbaijani servicemen was registered on September 15, when contact with an employee of the Ministry of Emergency Situations was lost in the village of Nerkin Hand in Syunik region. “The rescue workers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs went in a group to the territory of the village of Nerkin Hand in the Syunik region to return the bodies. Part of the group has returned. and it has not been possible to establish contact with one of the rescue workers so far,” said Hayk Kostanyan, spokesperson of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Hours later, he informed that everything is fine with the MES employee and added: “He is already with his other colleagues, having completed the task before him.”
The relevant bodies did not provide details related to this incident: under what conditions did the MES employee appear and how and under what circumstances did he return.
However, “Hetk” newspaper reports the details of the incident, citing its informed sources. “The “UAZ” vehicle of the Kapan ambulance service went to remove bodies from the positions above Nerkin Hand. There were no representatives of the Red Cross in the car. There was an ambulance driver, 2 military personnel and 1 MES employee. They were not armed. The evacuees are not given weapons. The enemy soldiers took all 4 men hostages on the front line.
The ambulance driver was kept handcuffed and lying on the ground for about 4 hours, then a high-ranking Azerbaijani military officer approached and asked if he knew Russian. After that, the Azerbaijanis set a condition that if the Armenian side returns one wounded Azerbaijani and one body, they will release 4 Armenians and return the bodies to the Armenian side.
The driver asked the representatives of the enemy to release one of the hostages of the Armenian soldiers with him, so that he could help him in returning the wounded and the body of the captured Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijanis agreed. The Armenian side handed over the wounded Azerbaijani to their relatives until the Armenian driver and the soldier returned to us. Later, they both handed over the body of their soldier to the enemy. After this, the Azerbaijanis released the MES employee and the other soldier.”