Shahin Sayilov: “We have achieved the registration of more than 1189 Azerbaijanis by ICRC as missing” - INTERVIEW

Shahin Sayilov: “We have achieved the registration of more than 1189 Azerbaijanis by ICRC as missing”  - <span style="color: red;">INTERVIEW
# 26 August 2013 12:08 (UTC +04:00)

Baku. Shahriyar Alizadeh – APA. APA’s interview with Shahin Sayilov, Secretary of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons.

- How many people have been registered as missing by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons?

- First of all, I would like to note that the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons and its Working Group have been functioning for 20 years. At the meeting in January, 2013, the activities carried out by the Commission during these years were thoroughly analyzed and priorities for further endeavor were determined. The public has already been informed about this. In general, the public is regularly informed about the State Commission’s activity. The official website (www.human.gov.az) of the State Commission contains detailed information about the abovementioned issues, as well as statistics. The recent statistics is as follows:

As of August 1, 2013, 4035 persons (46 children, 255 women, 353 elderly persons) were registered by the State Commission as missing. The State Commission has concrete facts that of them 877 (including 22 children, 99 women, 133 elderly persons) have been captivated, are being kept alive in the occupied territories and Armenians deny these facts. 1402 persons have been released from hostage since the beginning of the war up to now.

- What can you say about the activities carried out in connection with Ante-mortem program signed between the State Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the process of specifying the list of the missing people? Do the lists of both organizations coincide?

- In 2008, ICRC Delegation to Azerbaijan and the State Commission signed the framework agreement “On the collection of ante mortem data on the people missing due to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and its centralized management”. The main goal of the agreement is to collect detailed information about the people missing as a result of the conflict and use this information during the examination and identification of the remains of unidentified bodies. After the framework agreement was signed, it became necessary to collect information about the missing people. These activities were carried out by volunteers of Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society with the support of ICRC. The volunteers of the Red Crescent Society were trained by ICRC in this regard. Totally, 3490 inquiry schedules have been submitted to ICRC up to now. In accordance with the agreement “On the use of Ante-mortem/Post-mortem database” signed by ICRC and the State Commission on January 26, 2011, the process of inclusion of the collected information into electronic database is being carried out by employees of the State Commission trained by ICRC. Information about 1293 people have been included in the database up to now. The specification of the list is important in our work. The census was not almost carried out at the beginning of the conflict. The firs list was drawn in May, 1993 after the establishment of the State Commission and published by the “Azerbaijan” newspaper. These lists were compiled basing on the information of various sources, including media reports. Therefore, there was a great need for specification. We started this work in January, 2005 within the cooperation with ICRC. The fates of 1045 persons have been clarified and removed from the list of missing people up to the present. It has been revealed that 386 out of them are alive, 312 were killed during the military operations and their bodies were buried after identification, 332 were repeatedly included in the list and 15 went missing outside the conflicting zone. Moreover, the Commission’s working group has collected information about 2280 missing people and the specified information has been submitted to ICRC. At present, the specification of lists is about to end. But the emergence of new data is available due to the conflict. It was revealed that 122 people, whose relatives did not appeal to the Commission, went missing during military operations and were registered. Today, 4035 people have been registered by the State Commission as missing. This figure amounts for 3746 in ICRC. 2557 people were registered by ICRC as missing in the list submitted to the Commission in 2004. It means that we have achieved the registration of more than 1189 Azerbaijanis by ICRC as missing during these years.

- The recent reports of the Commission point out that the search and registration of unidentified graves of the people, who were killed as a result of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and buried without identification, are being carried out. What about the situation in this sphere and do Armenians carry out these activities?

- I would like to note that this process is also being carried out within the Ante-mortem program. The Commission has been conducting the search and registration of unidentified graves. The activities are being carried out in all regions of Azerbaijan in this regard. Correspondence is being conducted with relevant local structures and employees of the Commission’s working group are carrying out search operations in possible areas near the contact line of the troops. The searches found out serious information. Information about 158 unidentified graves has been registered by the working group. No information has yet been received by the Commission about the search and registration of unknown graves in Armenia and the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Of course, it is very important to conduct these activities in the occupied territories. The status-quo regarding the conflict does not allow carrying out activities in those territories. Nothing prevents Armenia from conducting this process. ICRC and Armenia have also signed the abovementioned framework agreement.

- How is the process of involving the relatives of the missing people in specification of their fates being carried out?

- In general, since its establishment the Commission has been functioning in cooperation with citizens basing on the principle of transparency. Of course, the role of parents in specifying the missing people’s fates is important.

The undeniable fact is that the initial search has been started by parents of the missing sons, they talked to their comrades, commanders, friends, people with any information about their sons. Therefore, we are in a daily contact with the parents. They are received by the Commission’s working group at any time. Thus, we don’t have special reception day and there are no limits in this regard. Any information obtained during the investigation is specified with their help. At the same time, we investigate any information given by the parents. For example – if a parent says comrade of his missing son gave some information to him/her, we find that person and interrogate him. Besides, we contact parents through the related local bodies, too.

- Sometimes the media outlets report that Armenia and Azerbaijan change bodies of captives or dead persons. To what extent is this true? Can the captives be changed with each other?

- Such approach is fundamentally incorrect, because, the international humanitarian law prohibits the exchange of captives-hostages and submission of term of exchanging during the negotiations. These moments have been found in the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, which is the main source of the international humanitarian law. The captured person must be returned to homeland without any conditions. In case of refusal to return to his native country, he must be sent to a third country. The serviceman can not be kept in the country that captivated him permanently or become an object of take-give. Therefore, the media outlets must be careful on this issue. This year, in connection with Commission’s 20th anniversary, we have published a book titled “Mission implemented in humanitarian corridor”. I recommend to all our journalists to read this book. All theoretical and practical issues on this problem have been researched in the book.

- What is the level of cooperation between the State Commission and international organizations?

- The State Commission cooperates with international organizations on the basis of principles rising from the International Conventions joined by Azerbaijan. This is an important factor for the organization working with war victims. From this viewpoint, the most significant organization that we are cooperating with is the International Red Cross Organization. This organization has been in cooperation with Azerbaijan since 1992 and the Commission cooperates with it since the first day. After establishment of the Commission, release of captive-hostages, receiving bodies of dead persons and handover process have been realized via this organization. Besides, I can say that over these years, the Commission has cooperated with the international organizations such as OSCE, PACE, as well as several NGOs.

- For what reason the fate of the Armenian family consisting of five members is still unsettled? With what status are they kept here and how long will they be here?

- As you know, Gevorkyan Yegishe Petrovich and his family came to the Republic of Azerbaijan in January of 2010 voluntarily. That is why, they are not war victims, in other words, they are neither captives, nor hostages. According to Armenian media, there is a criminal case over Yegishe Gevorkyan. Due to it, he does not want to return to Armenia and has applied to the Azerbaijani government to go to a third country. In order to solve the problem regarding this family in line with the international laws, Azerbaijani government has applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Currently, the mentioned organization is engaged in the settlement of this problem.

- When Armenian serviceman Akop Injigulyan was captured, statements of Armenian officials regarding desire of Azerbaijani serviceman Firuz Farajov, who has been held captive for more than a year in this country, evoked questions inside the society. Don’t you think it is the violation of Geneva Convention by Armenia?

- Of course, in this situation announcement of Firuz Farajov’s desire to return to homeland unambiguously gives ground to formation of such opinion. From media we know that captivity of Akop Injigulyan caused anxiety in Armenian society and even made people to gather in front of the related state institutions. So, announcement of the statement did not surprise us. As to violation of Geneva Convention by Armenia, it is not secret to anyone.

- When will Firuz Farajov be handed over to Azerbaijan?

- As you have recently said, the reports regarding Farajov’s desire to return to homeland were spread by the Armenian media and cited the officials of this country. But, the State Commission has not received any official information from the ICRC on this issue. If the ICRC submits official information to the State Commission, we will take all necessary measures to release Firuz Farajov in the short run.

- What can you say about Akop Injigulyan’s case? Did he decide to return to Armenia or to a third country?

- I can say that the ICRC was informed about captivity of Akop Injigulyan immediately after he was captured. He has been provided with the detention conditions in accordance with international norms. As you know, ICRC representatives have met with him on August 20. Detention conditions and health of Injigulyan is normal. In case he wants to return to Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan will help him in this matter. In general, the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons does not support keeping of prisoners and hostages for a long time.

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