UN Committee Against Torture in Report Blasts Azerbaijan for Treatment of Armenians in Karabakh

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NEW YORK — The UN Committee Against Torture released in its findings on May 10 violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law related to the treatment of ethnic or national Armenians by Azerbaijan, which was deemed as “totally unacceptable.”

The Committee monitors states’ compliance with the 1984 Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. If it determines that a State is not meeting its legal obligations, it will issue suggestions and recommendations to the State to achieve compliance. Its previous review of Azerbaijan took place in 2015.

Civil society groups had the right to make written submissions to the Committee, and present orally to the Committee at the U.N. Palais Wilson in Geneva on April 22. The

In its Concluding Observations (paras. 22-25), the Committee made significant and targeted findings against Azerbaijan’s conduct towards ethnic Armenians.

Perhaps most importantly, referring to the “conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Committee expressed its “deep concern regarding [Azerbaijan’s] conduct of what it describes as anti-terrorism operations,” in other words the military action by which Azerbaijan ethnically cleansed Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19-20, 2023. The Committee’s concern extended to “the continued detention of what [Azerbaijan] describes as 23 individuals in connection with terrorism,” referring to the detained former Nagorno-Karabakh leaders.

In a public statement, the UN Committee noted that it was “alarmed by alleged extra-judicial killings, torture, and ill-treatment of national and ethnic Armenians during armed conflict and anti-terrorism operations, and the perceived lack of investigations and prosecutions of these allegations.”

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The Committee also expressed concerns over the continued detention of 23 individuals of Armenian ethnic or national origin and called for “independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigations into the allegations of serious violations and urged the State party to bring those responsible to justice.”

The report stressed that “international humanitarian law is applied during all international and non-international armed conflicts to which the State party is a party,” and that investigations and prosecutions include the “acts of any persons in a position of command or superior responsibility who knew or should have known that his or her subordinates had committed, or were likely to commit, extrajudicial executions, torture or ill-treatment, or other war crimes, and failed to take reasonable and necessary preventive measures.”

The UN report also methodically addressed a wide scope of violations by the government of Azerbaijan against its own population, including allegations of torture and ill-treatment, the harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination, gender-based and domestic violence, corporal punishment, among other concerns.

The Committee recommended that Azerbaijan “make clear at the highest levels that any violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law related to the conflict in the region, or otherwise related to the treatment of ethnic or national Armenians, are totally unacceptable,” and that Azerbaijan promptly conduct full and impartial investigations into allegations of extrajudicial executions, torture and ill-treatment against ethnic Armenians.

It recommended that Azerbaijan fully apply international law concerning the immunity and release of combatants and that it join the International Criminal Court.

Finally, it stated that “[Azerbaijan] should publicly condemn hate speech, threats and attacks against persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin and all other minority groups, at the highest levels, and refrain from endorsing, through action or omission, such threats and attacks.”

(Material from the Armenian Bar Association and the Armenian Assembly of America were used to compile this report.)

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