Azerbaijani and Armenian forces committed war crimes during recent fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, Amnesty International reported on Thursday, after verifying videos showing the decapitation of captives and the desecration of the corpses of opposing forces.
Amnesty analysed 22 videos that depict extrajudicial executions, the mistreatment of prisoners of war and other captives, and desecration of the dead bodies of enemy soldiers, much of it shared over social networks.
Two videos show extrajudicial executions by decapitation by Azerbaijani military members, while another video shows the cutting of an Azerbaijani border guard’s throat that led to his death.
Amnesty said it had digitally verified videos showing decapitations and the desecration of corpses, although it stopped short of identifying many of the victims or the circumstances of their deaths.
“The depravity and lack of humanity captured in these videos shows the deliberate intention to cause ultimate harm and humiliation to victims, in clear violation of international humanitarian law,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s research director for eastern Europe and central Asia, in the report.
“Both Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities must immediately conduct independent, impartial investigations and identify all those responsible. The perpetrators – as well as any commanding officers who ordered, allowed or condoned these crimes – must be brought to justice.”
Earlier, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting how Azerbaijani forces had subjected Armenian prisoners of war to physical abuse and humiliation, including beating and slapping, in videos later shared online.
Those cases had been verified with family members identifying the victims. Videos of the beheadings had been harder to confirm because they had been stripped of metadata showing where and when they were taken.
An Armenian human rights lawyer said that the country had taken more than 80 cases of mistreatment to the European court of human rights, and that the body of at least one captive was returned bearing signs of torture.
The report came as Azerbaijan celebrated its victory in the conflict by staging a major military parade in central Baku, with thousands of soldiers parading past the president, Ilham Aliyev, and Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who supported the country in the war.
On Sept. 27, heavy fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Armenian-supported forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In the months that followed, both sides involved in the conflict exchanged artillery and rocket fire.
Amnesty has called on all sides to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians from the effects of the hostilities. The fighting concluded with the signing of the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement on 9 November.
Both sides reported more than 2,700 soldiers killed, although the actual number may be higher.
Russian peacekeepers have been deployed to the region, which had been run by an Armenian-backed local government since a bloody war in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Source: The Guardian)