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July 23
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Senator Edward Markey from the US state of Massachusetts has called on the United States and the international community to use all possible means and tools, including the COP29 to be held this year, to ensure the release of unlawfully detained Armenian hostages and prisoners by the Aliyev regime.

The senator called on both Congress and the White House to insist in all interactions with the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia that the release of political prisoners must be a prerequisite for any compromise or peace agreement reached. Throughout the senator's speech, the photo of the unlawful arrest of the former minister of state of Artsakh, philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan was shown. The senator's speech is translated below, and the video is available at this link.

“I arrived today to speak out against Azerbaijan’s unlawful detention of Armenian prisoners of war and alarming record of rampant human rights violations. On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military attack against Nagorno-Karabakh to gain full control over the territory, causing a mass exodus of more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians, virtually all of the region’s ethnic Armenians, as well as the regional government, to capitulate. Azerbaijan then falsely denied that it forced people to leave, and insincerely promised that it would peacefully reintegrate the region and guarantee the rights of ethnic Armenians.

Instead, even after their surrender, Azerbaijan punitively arrested and detained leaders of the former Karabakh government, including former State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, who is here, as he is being arrested, by Azerbaijan military officials. Also, ex-Presidents Arkadi Ghukasyan, Bako Sahakyan, and Arayik Harutyunyan; former Foreign Minister David Babayan; Parliament Speaker Davit Ishkhanyan; and former Generals Levon Mnatsakanyan and Davit Manukyan.

These eight former officials have been held in pre-trial detention for more than eight months. Just last month, Azerbaijani authorities extended the detention with another five months, without a trial, without due process, and Azerbaijan has routinely resorted to hostage diplomacy, prolonging unlawful detention and using prisoners of war as bargaining chips to impose its demands on Armenia, in clear violation of international law. In fact, Azerbaijan is still holding dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and civilian, political prisoners that it took captive during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Additionally, widespread reporting, including from Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the United States Department of State, call attention to the terrible treatment of political prisoners by Azerbaijan. Former State Minister Ruben Vardanyan alone has faced punitive extended stays in solitary confinement, poor prison conditions, denial of water and clean clothing, and orders that require him to stand for hours on end. He was also cut off from his lawyer and family for several weeks. Others are subjected to physical abuse, humiliation, and cruel and inhumane treatment. 

Despite its clear pattern of committing human rights violations, Azerbaijan has incurred few costs on the international community, for its egregious abuses against ethnic Armenians and illegal detention of political prisoners. The Aliyev regime thinks it can continue acting in flagrant violation of international and United States law, which is why it’s incumbent upon Congress to speak out and say “no” to Azerbaijan, “no” to hostage diplomacy and Azerbaijan’s taking of political prisoners, “no” to subjecting prisoners and political prisoners to cruel and inhumane punishment, “no” to denying the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region, and “no” to Azerbaijan delaying the release of the political prisoners even one more day. 

Azerbaijan must cease all of its abuse of political prisoners. It must release all political prisoners and prisoners of war. That is why I sent a letter to Secretary Anthony Blinken urging the State Department to prioritize the release of Armenian prisoners held by Azerbaijan and the right of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians to return to their homes in ongoing peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan says it wants peace, but what it really wants is to act with impunity and still be rewarded by the United States and the international community, including with the privilege of hosting the next United Nations international climate conference COP29 later on this year.

You cannot, on the one hand, be saying you want to host the world, and then simultaneously say, “But ignore our human rights violations, ignore the fact that we just arrest the political leaders of another nation, and pretend that, somehow or another, we are still worthy of hosting the climate summit for the planet.” I urge both Congress and the White House to insist in all interactions with the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia that the release of political prisoners must be a prerequisite to any concessions, awards, or peace deal reached.

We must say “no” to Azerbaijan’s violations of international law and human rights and ensure those responsible are held accountable. This is the perfect time to be having this conversation. Azerbaijan is getting ready to host the climate summit of the world. We must ensure that we take this opportunity to put the spotlight on all of those political prisoners who are being held wrongly by the Azerbaijan government. It is strictly a violation of international human rights, and I call upon our government, and I call upon the world, to put a spotlight on these political prisoners so that they are released before the climate summit is held at the end of this year. So I thank you, Mr. President, and I yield back”.

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This text available in   Հայերեն and Русский
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