Armenia, Azerbaijan renew claims of Nagorno-Karabakh war crimes

Armenia and Azerbaijan renewed accusations Monday, in addresses to the United Nations Human Rights Council, that the other side committed war crimes during their fighting last year over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The decades-long dispute reignited into all-out war in late September and claimed some 6,000 lives, including civilians. It ended with Armenia’s brutal defeat six weeks later following a Moscow-brokered peace deal.

Both sides accused the other of violating international law during the fighting and lobbed the claims again Monday when their foreign ministers addressed the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council by video link.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazyan accused Azerbaijani forces of “deliberately and systematically targeting civilian infrastructure,” “vandalizing and destroying Armenian cultural and religious heritage” and using “degrading, inhuman and cruel treatment” on Armenian prisoners of war and civilian detainees.

He added that Baku’s leadership, “with the direct involvement of Turkey and the latter’s affiliated foreign terrorist fighters, perpetrated mass atrocities against Armenians”.

Turkey backed Azerbaijan in the conflict, but denied accusations that it had sent mercenaries to the frontlines.

For his part, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov accused Armenian forces of “grave violations of international humanitarian law tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

He said Armenia’s military “deliberately attacked” densely populated civilian settlements in Azerbaijan and committed war crimes against Azerbaijani captives.

In December, Amnesty International urged Baku and Yerevan to urgently probe “war crimes” committed by both sides during the fighting.

While Armenia has not opened an investigation into its army for war crimes, Azerbaijan has charged two of its soldiers for mutilating bodies of Armenian soldiers.

In the 1990s, Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in a war over the mountainous province that left some 10,000 dead.

Armenia’s ally Russia refused to intervene militarily in the latest conflict last year, but deployed several thousand peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh after brokering the peace accord in November.

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