Human rights advocates Arman Tatoyan and Siranush Sahakyan presented details of their most recent report that includes information about Azerbaijan having stationed 6,000 special forces along its border with Armenia and Artsakh. The report also reveals information about the brutal treatment of Armenian prisoners of war being held captive in Baku.
“Commando unit [of Azerbaijan] is stationed in Hadrut and Karvachar. At the moment there are five units, but the location of three of them is kept secret,” Sahakyan, an attorney who represents Armenia at the European Court of Human Rights, said at news conference with Tatoyan on Friday.
She said that their research has found that the special Azerbaijani forces, numbering around 6,000, have been tasked with destroying the Artsakh Defense Army and are conducting clandestine operations in and around the Azerbaijani border with Armenia and Artsakh.
Tatoyan, who was Armenia’s former Human Rights Defender and runs a foundation that bares his name, said that despite public claims by Azerbaijani leaders about engaging in border delimitation and demarcation processes, official Baku has already begun fortifying the positions it has gained within Armenia through the various breaches of Armenia’s sovereign territory, including the attack on the Aragatsotn, Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces in September of last year.
“We know that the Azerbaijanis have invaded the sovereign territories of Armenia, and it is obvious that they have no intention of leaving,” said Tatoyan. “No matter how much they [the Azerbaijanis] talk about [border] delimitation, international principles, their actions speak of something completely different. They are entrenched in the territories inside the border of Armenia.”
He described the differences he observed when he visited Syunik three months ago and later 10 days ago. Tatoyan said that Azerbaijani forces have “entrenched themselves” on the sovereign territory of Armenia.
“They have set up positions in the administrative area of Nerkin Hand village of Syunik, a few months ago they had built a small building; after a few months—big buildings, infrastructures, and roads. We had recorded the same thing after September 13-14 in the region of Jermuk: after a few months, they were even constructing wide concrete roads, bunkers and other facilities,” Tatoyan said.
He emphasized that the Azerbaijani are making the life of the civilian population in those regions in Armenia unbearable so that they will leave, pointing out similar pressures being applied on the citizens of Artsakh.
Tatoyan said that the Azerbaijani are cutting off the water supply to prevent farmers and shepherds from using their lands for pastures and farming.
He also said that Azerbaijani forces are placing landmines in villages in the Syunik Province, posing a threat to the residents and livestock.
Sahakyan, who has extensive experience advocating for the rights of Armenian captives and POWs, said that Armenian detainees have been severely beaten by Azerbaijani military police. She said that coupled with the physical abuse, Armenian POWs were also deliberately being deprived of food and sleep and were being exposed to the elements when they were held outdoors in cold weather.
Sahakyan said that the Azerbaijani policy was continued under the supervision of special services, and more intense inhumane treatment was shown at detention centers, where the “superiority” of Azerbaijanis over the ethnic Armenians was emphasized through racial insults and degradation.
She explained that a similar tactic intended to cause additional harm to Armenians was being employed by Azerbaijani when they target the families of killed soldiers and detainees by sending them images of their loved one being tortured or mutilated.
Sahakyan warned that often times the captured Armenians were handed over to military or civilian medical professionals who stage scenes of the captives receiving treatment as a means of warding off international observers. In reality, she said the Azerbaijani medical personnel also use violence once the cameras are shut off.
She also said that their investigation has revealed that there are 80 POWs and not 33 as has been reported widely by officials in Baku and Yerevan.
Tatoyan and Sahakyan concluded that inaction by the international community has allowed Azerbaijan to continue to act with impunity and commit gross violations of human and individual rights against Armenians.
Tatoyan explained that Azerbaijan actions serve two purposes for the authorities in Baku. He said that official Baku continues to sow hatred toward Armenians to project to lay Azerbaijanis that there is an external enemy, thus quelling internal unrest.
He said the second goal of the Azerbaijani authorities is to create conditions that force Armenians to leave their ancestral lands—the beginning of ethnic cleansing not just in Artsakh, but also Armenia.