The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday took up the discussion of Armenian prisoners of war and other captives being held by Azerbaijan.
Stefan Schennach, who it the PACE co-rapporteur for Azerbaijan, called on Baku to return POWs.
“We must use this forum for solving conflicts and reaching peace. There are people in Azerbaijan, who are considered missing, there are many servicemen who are still kept in Azerbaijan as POWs. This issue must be clearly and seriously addressed,’’ said Schennach, who said he was speaking in his capacity as a member of parliament and not his role as co-rapporteur for Azerbaijan.
He added that numerous civilians have been killed during the war, and it is important to respect the adversary and strive for peace.
“I ask, I call on Azerbaijan, let’s not trade over the issue if the servicemen were taken captive before or after the war. They must be returned home’’ added Schennach.
However, it was the representatives of Armenia at the PACE session on Tuesday who made strong statement, often times criticizing the forum and European foreign policy, which they said is ignoring the plight of Armenians.
Lawmaker Naira Zohrabyan, who is a member of Armenia’s PACE delegations called on the Assembly to take a position of Azerbaijan’s Armenophobic policy and use all its levers for the release of the Armenian captives.
“It is a fact that in recent years the Council of Europe and our Assembly are undergoing very strange transformations in outlining their priorities. For me, it is at least perplexing that the Council of Europe, which has seemingly transformed into an anti-Russian club, is choosing the issue of the Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny as the number one subject in all its recent agendas,” said Zohrabyan, who added that what was happening in some Council of Europe member-states was “horrifying.”
“A few days ago a museum— unprecedented with its wretchedness—opened in Baku, exhibiting military trophies seized from the Armenian side during the latest Artsakh war, and you should’ve seen how Aliyev was proudly walking through the helmets of killed Armenian soldiers, you should’ve seen how Azerbaijani children were playing by choking the mannequins of Armenian soldiers,” Zohrabyan said.
“The issue of this very fascist exhibition in Baku today should have become one of the priority issues. It was horrifying to see how Azerbaijanis were standing in a kilometers-long queue to see that exhibition of disrespect. They had brought their children with them, who were saying that Armenians are their genetic enemies,” added Zohrabyan.
“Six month after the war we have hundreds of prisoners of war held in Azerbaijani prisons and Azerbaijan not only refuses to provide clear information about them to the European Court of Human Rights, but is also cynically stating that they aren’t prisoners of war. By the way, one of the prisoners of war was laid to rest by his family few days ago. I want to understand why the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner hasn’t yet visited the Baku prisons to see the inhumane conditions in which Armenian prisoners of war are held,” Zohrabyan said, challenging her PACE colleagues.
“Dear colleagues, when in our neighborhood Council of Europe-members Azerbaijan and Turkey are transgressing human rights in the most abhorrent manner, when Aliyev is stating that they won this war, because they raised an entire generation of Azerbaijani youth with hatred for the enemy, it is this kind of racist and Armenophobic statements which should become the subject of discussions of our organization, otherwise with fake agendas we are ignoring the fundamental values of our organization,” said Zohrabyan.
Another PACE delegate from Armenia, Mikayel Melkumyan, expressed his frustration with PACE member states for not taking a more decisive position.
“What would you do if those POWs were French or German nationals? I want to see concrete measures, the parents of our POWs want to see concrete measures,’’ Melkumyan said, emphasizing that the war incited by Azerbaijan and Turkey was the continuation of the genocide.
“I would like to state that this organization was created to prevent any other horrors of the Second World War. This organization has been created to be watchdog for the protection of human rights, for the securing of rule of law and for respecting democracy. This organization was created to say never again to the Holocaust, crimes against humanity and all the other wrongdoings,” Armenia PACE delegate Vladimir Vardanyan, who is the chairman of the standing committee on state-legal affairs of Armenia’s National Assembly.
“More than 200 Armenian prisoners of war are under Azerbaijani custody. We have reasonable grounds to believe that their lives are in dangers, that they may be a subject for torture. It’s not a political issue, it’s an issue of human tights, an issue of democracy, and their rights should be respected,” said Vardanyan.