UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, November 2 expressed alarm at continuing indiscriminate attacks in populated areas in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, in contravention of international humanitarian law, and warned they may amount to war crimes.
Bachelet, in particular, cited the Azerbaijani soldiers' murdering of two Armenian prisoners of war.
“Since the conflict reignited in September with the terrible consequences we are now seeing, there have been repeated calls, including by myself, for the parties to take all feasible steps to avoid, or at the very least minimize, the loss of civilian life and damage to civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals – as well as to distinguish civilians from combatants, and civilian objects from military objectives,” Bachelet said.
“Instead, homes have been destroyed, streets reduced to rubble, and people forced to flee or seek safety in basements,” she added.
“International humanitarian law cannot be clearer. Attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction or the principle of proportionality may amount to war crimes, and the parties to the conflict are obliged to effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate such violations and to prosecute those alleged to have committed them,” the High Commissioner stressed.
“Such attacks must stop and those responsible for carrying them out, or ordering them, must be held to account.”
“While many faked images have been circulating on social media, in-depth investigations by media organisations into videos that appeared to show Azerbaijani troops summarily executing two captured Armenians in military uniforms uncovered compelling and deeply disturbing information,” Bachelet said in a statement said, noting it could also be a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
Azerbaijani social media users have been disseminating footage depicting the torture of Armenian prisoners of war, as well as the desecration of the bodies of dead Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers. Also, Azerbaijan has been deliberately targeting civilian settlements of Karabakh, also firing cluster munitions, which have resulted in over 45 deaths and 150 injuries.
Azerbaijan, with help from Turkey and Syrian and Libyan mercenaries deployed by Ankara, started a war against Karabakh (Artsakh) in the morning of September 27. The Armenian side has reported deaths and injuries both among the civilian population and the military. Foreign and local journalists too have been injured in Azeri shelling of towns and villages.