Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor, Law Development and Protection Foundation and Protection of Rights without borders Non-Governmental Organization presented the fact-finding report on Human Rights Violations during the 44-day war in Artsakh in Yerevan on December 17, 2021. The event was attended by representatives of the RA Government and governmental bodies, the National Assembly, the Human Rights Defender’s Office, diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited in Armenia, representatives and experts of civil society organizations and journalists.
The fact finding report, which was prepared by the above-mentioned civil society organizations, thoroughly presents the war crimes committed by Azerbaijan against the people of Artsakh, the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, that took place in the fall of 2020 during the 44-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan. During the event, facts were presented on the violation of the right to life, health, respect of human dignity, right to property, prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, as well as crimes against the environment and cultural heritage, targeting of journalists, recruiting mercenaries, using restricted and banned means and methods of warfare. The evidence presented in the report is based on careful collection and thorough analysis of data from multiple sources of information. Within the scope of the works the fact-finding group has visited Artsakh, documented the destructions and human rights violations. Meetings were held with a total of 879 witnesses, reported and unreported cases of violence were investigated. In order to ensure the objectiveness of the report the reliability of the evidence was verified through the analyzes from other sources, assessments of military experts, other official reports.
Launching the event, the Deputy Director of Open Society Foundations David Amiryan noted that the purpose of the fact-finding report was to study, compile and collect war crimes and human rights violations committed by Azerbaijan in a comprehensive and impartial manner, to present them to the international community and to urge the international organizations to respond to these violations and to protect human rights. “From the first days of the war, a fact-finding initiative was launched to investigate and assess the atrocities committed against the people of Artsakh. The target of the investigation was 44-day time period. However, data collection process was not limited to that period, the situation before and after the war was also studied in order to create a complete picture. The purpose of the fact-finding project is to provide an opportunity for the facts to speak. Through this process, an attempt is made to identify and analyze violations of the human rights committed by Azerbaijan during the war, to present them to the local and international community and to provide state, non-state and international organizations with facts that can be used when talking about violations of international humanitarian law by Azerbaijan and possible sanctions against that country” noted David Amiryan.
The Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia Arman Tatoyan highly assessed the elaboration of the fact-finding report by the civil society organizations. “I consider this event to be very important, especially since such an important initiative is implemented with the involvement and with a direct initiative of civil society. We are also ready to do everything in our capacity and power to make this document widely used, and those issues should become part of state policy”– noted the Human Rights Defender in his speech.
During the event, the authors of the report presented the human rights violations according to their field and directions. Legal Expert of “Protection of Rights without borders” Anna Melikyan presented the violations of the right to life, cases of torture and inhuman treatment, manifestations of discrimination and hatred against Armenians.
Within the framework of the project, Law Development and Protection Foundation studied the crimes against the environment committed by Azerbaijan during the war, the use of incendiary weapons, violations of private, family life and property rights. The director of the foundation Genya Petrosyan emphasized that during the fact-finding mission some of the respondents mentioned that they had personally witnessed the use of incendiary weapons or felt the consequences. “Seven respondents were aware of cases in which civilians received burns as a result of the use of incendiary weapons. A gross violation of the right to privacy and family life is the absence of an opportunity to visit the graves and burial sites of relatives as a result of the war, as well as the destruction, damage and/or desecration of the graves and memorial monuments. According to evidence collected during the fact-finding mission, children experienced feelings of constant fear after the bombings, tremors, fear of darkness, lack of desire to eat, nausea, in specific cases problems with memory, fainting, as well as depression, silence, lack of desire to communicate” – noted Genya Petrosyan.
The fact-finding report sheds light on the illegal means and methods of warfare used by Azerbaijan. Facts about used weapons, targeting the population, residential areas and infrastructure are presented. Moreover, the report reveals how Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, used Syrian mercenaries during the war. The Report also addresses the facts of deliberate targeting of journalists by Azerbaijan during the war.
“The fact-finding report concludes that Azerbaijan carried out deliberate, frequent, continuous attacks on civilians, medical facilities, ambulance stations, the energy system, and other civilian infrastructure with banned weapons. Cultural and religious monuments have been damaged or vandalized. The facts we have gathered show that Azerbaijan deliberately attacked the bridges when they were used for civilian purposes. Those are war crimes and can be considered as crimes against humanity”- Arthur Sakunts, Chairman of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, mentioned in his speech.
The representatives of the organizations authored the report stressed out that the facts presented in the report and the recommendations cannot be considered separately from the events taking place today.
During the event, civil society organizations again called on the UN and OSCE member states to condemn Azerbaijan’s current policy of aggression against Armenia, urging to establish an immediate international human rights monitoring mission, as well as to establish a security zone to prevent possible escalation of the situation and attacks.
The report presents the recommendations of civil society organizations addressed to the Government of the Republic of Armenia, the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union, other international and regional organizations, and states.