EU Urged to Take ‘Concrete Steps’ for Armenian POWs Release

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The conference panelist from top left: European Parliament member Marina Kaljurand; EAFJD Executive Director Heghine Evinyan; Armenia's Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan; Member of European Parliament Loucas Fourlas

The conference panelist from top left: European Parliament member Marina Kaljurand; EAFJD Executive Director Heghine Evinyan; Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan; Member of European Parliament Loucas Fourlas

A virtual conference addressing the legal and political aspects of one of the most urgent humanitarian issues after the 2020 Karabakh war—the fate of Armenian prisoners of war and captives being held in Azerbaijan—took place on Monday. The conference called, “The Fate of the Armenian captives in Azerbaijan,” was hosted by Member of the European Parliament Loucas Fourlas of Cyprus.

The conference called took place in an online format, considering the restrictions due to the global health emergency.

The executive director of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Heghine Evinyan was one of the keynote speakers of the conference. The other panelists were European Parliament member Marina Kaljurand, the Chair of the delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, and Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan.

Five months after signing the ceasefire statement of the war in Artsakh there are still at least 188 Armenian captives in the prisons in Azerbaijan, despite the obligation of the latter to return all the captives, detainees and prisoners war.

In her presentation, Evinyan stressed that keeping Armenians captive months after the end of the war is an act of prolongation of the war from the psychological perspective by Azerbaijan.

“It is the continuation of the destructive consequences of the war. Human beings even if they are in captivity cannot be used as an object of political trade-off in order to elicit more gains”, said Evinyan.

“The silence and the rather passive stance of governments on the European level concerning a humanitarian issue such as the release of the prisoners of war, has been disheartening for the Armenian diaspora across Europe and in fact for anyone who cares about the issue and about human dignity, ” explained Evinyan.

“Europe can and has to do better, also for the sake of its own credibility, strength and viability. We do hope the European Parliament as an entity finally also expresses its position concerning the Armenian captives and calls on Azerbaijan to immediately release the Armenian captives and prisoners of war,” the EAFJD executive Director concluded.

In his presentation Fourlas, who is also the Chair of the Friendship group with Armenia in the European Parliament, emphasized that “the tragedy of missing persons, like the one affecting Cyprus since 1974, must not be repeated in Nagorno Karabakh. The international community must ensure the return of all the prisoners quickly.”

The speakers stressed that the detention and ill-treatment of the Armenian captives by Azerbaijan is a war crime, as all the Armenian captives are legally considered as “Prisoners of War” in accordance with the 1949 Geneva convention. By blatantly violating the Convention and basic human rights principles, Azerbaijan uses this overly sensitive humanitarian issue for gaining political benefits. The release of all prisoners of war, hostages, and other detainees is stipulated by the ceasefire concluded on 10 November 2020 by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. The Armenian side has returned all the prisoners of war.

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