YEREVAN, STEPANAKERT–Armenia’s Defense Ministry on Monday said a band of what it called Azerbaijani “saboteurs,” which last week infiltrated the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and were captured in the Kelbajar (Karvachar) district, will be prosecuted as criminals, and not as prisoners of war.
The ministry’s announcement has come after Baku’s insistence that the captured members of the criminal group be given prisoner of war status, despite continued denials from the Azerbaijan’s authorities that the captured men were members of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
Armenia’s defense ministry explained that provisions of international law do not apply to the captured commandos saying “Article 4 of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, clearly delineates which persons should be considered prisoners of war.”
The defense ministry added that the investigation has shown that the individuals who were captured in Karvachar were, in fact, members of a criminal group recruited and used by Azerbaijani authorities, adding that the individuals violated international law by attacking civilians.
The defense ministry stressed that the people in question unlawfully infiltrated the border, allegedly attempting murder and were caught attempting to take photographs of protected zones in the area.
“Therefore, the members of the group will be prosecuted under criminal law, in compliance with the international norms of fair trial and human rights protection,” the Ministry said, adding that it was prepared to present the aforementioned evidence to interested international structures.
Stepanakert Reports Complete ‘Neutralization’ of ‘Saboteurs’
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on Monday announced that all Azerbaijani “saboteurs” had been either “neutralized” or “destroyed” by special forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Armed Forces.
While no specific information was provided, the Artsakh Defense Ministry last week released photographs of the weapons cache seized from the group, as well as the picture of one of the alleged assailants, 46-year-old Shahbaz Guliyev, who infiltrated the Karabakh border last week.
The Artsakh Defense Ministry also elaborated that the Azerbaijani commandos ambushed a vehicle in Karvachar killing 42-year-old army major Sarkis Abrahamyan and injuring the wife of another military officer, 37-year-old Karine Davtyan. The attackers, according to the Karabakh Defense Ministry, were killed on Friday.
Upon the capture of the group last week, news of the disappearance of a 17-year-old resident of Karvachar was made public, with his parents believing that their son, Smbat Tsakanian, was kidnapped by the band of commandos. Official Stepanekert has not ruled out that possibility.
Soldier Posthumously Awarded
On Monday, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian posthumously awarded 20-year-old Movses Gasparyan with the “For Service in Battle” medal for bravery in the act of defending the state and the Artsakh border.
A machine gunner in the Artsakh Army, Gasparyan was killed Friday at the Karabakh-Azerbaijan border when Azerbaijani snipers fired at the southwestern positions of the Karabakh border.