September 24
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Members of the British Armenian humanitarian group have called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand, during his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, “the immediate and unconditional release of ALL Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian hostages held illegally in Baku prisons.” In an open letter to Johnson, they noted as follows:

We urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government to address Britain’s close economic partner, the government of Azerbaijan during his visit to the UK, for the immediate and unconditional release of ALL Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian hostages held illegally in Baku prisons, nearly a year after the trilateral Ceasefire Agreement of 9 November 2020 signed by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This huge humanitarian crisis of the Armenian people in homeland and in the diaspora alike, threatens the peace and the stability in the entire region and beyond. Azerbaijan refuses to comply with Article 8 of the Agreement and continues to hold over 200 POWs and civilians. On the other hand, Armenia, fulfilling the terms of the above agreement, has duly returned ALL Azerbaijani POWs, including two murderers imprisoned years before the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has returned only 108 Armenian hostages until today.

During the height of the global pandemic - in the early morning hours of 27 September 2020 - the armed forces of Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military attack against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) on the entire length of the contact line. Azerbaijan - under the commandment of Ilham Aliyev and the military support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - had recruited around 4000 ISIS mercenaries from Syria, Turkey and Pakistan to fight against ethnic Armenians using the most barbaric methods [1]. The mercenaries were paid $2500 and were promised an extra $100 for every beheading of Armenian civilian or soldier.

In September 2021, the cases of 39 Armenian hostages, who were brutally murdered after the above-mentioned ceasefire, were filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Azerbaijan continues to conceal the exact number of Armenian hostages held in Baku and systematically refuses to cooperate with the European Court.

Single mother Lusine Darbinyan told the shocking fate of her only child, Gagik, who would have turned 20 on the 14 September 2021. The 19-year-old conscript Gagik Mkrtchyan was captured a month after the Ceasefire Agreement after being lost in the woods with his comrades and waiting to be rescued near Hadrut in Nagorno-Karabakh. In April 2021, Gagik’s dismembered body was returned to his grieving mother: decapitated and covered with harrowing wounds. During the interview, Gagik’s grieving mother reported that her son was brutally tortured, the skin on his arm was ripped off, his ribs were completely broken, and there were burn marks covering his body. His internal organs were also missing [2]. This kind of brutality only emphasizes that the Ceasefire Agreement is being made a mockery of by Aliyev and demonstrates that Azerbaijan does not foster peace between the two countries or the wider region.

Furthermore, in the summer of 2021, sham trials of 58 Armenian hostages were set up at the Baku Court for Grave Crimes without the provision of legal representation for the hostages. Armenian hostages were banned access to family lawyers and were too intimidated to communicate with their families. The longest sentences (20 years of imprisonment) was given to Lebanese-Armenian citizen Vicken Eujekjian, Armenian servicemen Ludwig Mkrtchyan and Alyosha Khosrovyan under fake allegations which they are unable to challenge. All 58 sentences were carried out without international monitoring or using any international norms which substantiate a fair trial. According to the Third Geneva Convention for prisoners of war, all 58 sentenced Armenian POWs should be immediately returned to their families.

The latest report by Armenia’s Human Rights Defender of September 2021 contains shocking testimonies from the released hostages about Baku’s state-sponsored systematic inhumane treatment of ethnic Armenians held in Azerbaijan. Several prisoners, brave enough to testify, told that they were kept chained with their hands tied to a radiator or heating rod for several days and forced to lie on the floor while others were kept handcuffed in a seated position for days on end [3]. These shocking brutalities were carried out for one simple reason only: their ethnic origin.

As war crimes committed by Aliyev’s regime against ethnic Armenians stay unpunished, Azerbaijan’s military has become more brazen and continues to take further hostages, even from the sovereign Republic of Armenia. The latest incident occurred on the 22 August 2021, when the commander of the local division, Arthur Davidyan (age 32) was announced missing near Sev Lake. We have been campaigning for his release from captivity with his family members living in Bedfordshire, UK.

Among leaders invited to the Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, is Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev, whose despicable war crimes remain unchallenged by the UK government [4]. Aliyev’s twenty-year-old autocratic rule in Azerbaijan has eliminated all opposition in his country, retained the media and press under tight censorship, made his family and the ruling class billionaires and oil magnates, who notoriously bribe foreign politicians and MPs without any hesitation or embarrassment [5]. The recent BBC program Pandora Papers disclosed merely the tip of the corruption scandal associating the Aliyev family with Britain.

We, as members of the British Armenian community and citizens of Great Britain, urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government to discuss the crisis of POWs with President Aliyev during his visit to the UK demanding the following:

• the immediate and unconditional release of all ethnic Armenian civilian captives and POWs;

• urgent access of international bodies, including lawyers, monitors and diplomats, to all Armenian POWs to assess their health, detention conditions and court procedures;

• to disclose the accurate number of Armenian POWs and captives with, whether alive or killed in detention.

We take this opportunity to bring to your attention our global Petition with 35.000 signatures demanding the release of all Armenian POWs and captives addressed to decision makers at the United Nations and the Council of Europe, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

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