There have been a number of reactions to an investigation published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 19 March, alleging that Armenian prisoners of war (POW) in Azerbaijan were subjected to “cruel and degrading treatment and torture either when they were captured, during their transfer, or while in custody at various detention facilities”.
From Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Human Rights Commissioner, Sabina Aliyeva, accused the investigation of reflecting a biased approach and misleading the international community. Speaking on the report, Aliyeva stated:
"We regret to note that the recent report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleging the ill-treatment towards Armenian POWs detained in Azerbaijan reflects a biased approach and confuses the international community."
"The materials and facts provided by reliable sources such as independent international and domestic human rights organisations should be referred to as well. Unfortunately, we do not see these principles in the HRW report. On the contrary, we again witness double standards in this respect and distortion of the truth and undeniable facts," the Azerbaijani Human Rights commissioner added.
The report was additionally rejected by Azerbaijan's Committee against Torture, who referred to the report as “biased”; and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said it “one-sided, and falls short of providing an objective situation”.
Conversely, Armenian foreign ministry spokesperson, Anan Naghdalyan, brought attention to the report on 22 March, stating: “The report establishes that a number of Armenian soldiers were last seen in Azerbaijan’s custody and Azerbaijan has failed to account for them. This indicates a high probability of large-scale enforced disappearances not only among servicemen, but also captive civilians.” She expressed concern over those remaining in captivity.
The allegations by HRW have brought increased attention to the Armenian soldiers still held by Azerbaijan. Whilst Yerevan claims the men should be released as part of the POW swap negotiated in the framework of the 10 November agreement, Baku claims that as the men had killed Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians after the 10 November ceasefire, they are terrorists, not POWs.
A joint statement was published on Tuesday (23 March) by three Members of the European Parliament. Marina Kaljurand MEP, the Chair of the EU’s Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus; Andrey Kovatchev MEP, the European Parliament's Standing Rapporteur on Armenia; and Željana Zovko MEP, the European Parliament's Standing Rapporteur on Azerbaijan, expressed grave concern at the report’s findings: “We urge the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate all such allegations and to bring those responsible to justice”