Ismayil Akhundov: “Armenian doctors have documented the death of captived Azerbaijani citizen from starvation”-INTERVIEW

Ismayil Akhundov, head of the Working Group of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons

© APA | Ismayil Akhundov, head of the Working Group of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons

# 26 January 2022 15:22 (UTC +04:00)

Ismayil Akhundov, head of the Working Group of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons interviewed by APA

– What are the main activities of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons?

– The State Commission on prisoners of war, Hostages, and Missing persons was established by the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on January 13, 1993, to coordinate the humanitarian problem arising from the territorial claim of Armenia to Azerbaijan and the activities of state bodies in this direction. The main activity of the State Commission is the release of Azerbaijani citizens captured and held hostage during the armed conflict and their return to their homeland, as well as the search for missing persons. Moreover, the State Commission organizes social and medical rehabilitation of captives and released hostages and conducts relevant work with the families of missing persons.

The State Commission realizes its activities in accordance with the legal and normative documents adopted in the Republic of Azerbaijan in this field and the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, to which the Republic of Azerbaijan acceded in April 1993.

– At present, how many people are registered at the State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons as missing during the First Karabakh War? How was the list of missing people formed?

– One of the main tasks set by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, to the State Commission on Captives, Missing and Hostages is to clarify the fate of all citizens missing during the conflict and to inform their families. In accordance with the task, the State Commission continues to work to clarify the fate of Azerbaijani citizens missing during the conflict. After the establishment of the State Commission in 1993, the first necessary and urgent task was to collect, systematize and compile a preliminary list of information on captives, hostages and missing citizens in a centralized manner. For this purpose, at that time, the executive authorities of the republic, as well as the population through radio, television and other media were asked to send the necessary information to the State Commission. At that time, as a result of urgent measures taken by the working group of the State Commission, a preliminary list was compiled in a short time and published in the May and June 1993 issues of the "Azerbaijan" newspaper. The first list included the names of about 4,000 captives, hostages and missing persons. During the compilation of the list, more than 2,000 documents received from official state bodies, local executive and military structures, and citizens were carefully examined, and more than ten thousand citizens were received and heard.

However, taking into account both the situation at that time and the nature of the armed conflict, we can say that the initial list has undergone many changes in subsequent periods. This was because at the beginning of the conflict, information came in from a variety of sources. In many cases, there was some information about a missing person, and there were differences in the names, surnames and patronymics, dates of birth and location of those individuals. Therefore, it was important to clarify the lists. Therefore, the clarification of the list was the most important task facing the Working Group of the State Commission. The working group of the State Commission has been conducting search and investigation activities in this area for many years, and finally, an accurate list of missing Azerbaijani citizens in 2017 was prepared and submitted to the relevant government agencies. According to the State Commission on Captives, Missing, and Hostages, as of 01.01.2022, 3,890 people were registered as missing in the First Karabakh War as a result of Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan. 3171 of them are servicemen and 719 are civilians. Of the civilians, 71 are minors, 267 are women and 326 are elderly. There is indisputable information that of the total number of missing persons, 872 people, including 29 children, 98 women, and 112-year-olds, were taken hostage or remained in the occupied territories. Armenia hides the fact of detention of these people from international organizations and does not provide information about their future.

If we look at history, we see that the main target during armed conflicts is the military. Along with historical traditions, the norms and principles of modern international humanitarian law require it. However, as can be seen from the figures I have mentioned, along with the military, 719 civilians are registered as missing in the First Karabakh War. In other words, during the occupation of the residential areas of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the main target of the Armenian armed forces and terrorist armed groups was the civilian population. This fact is confirmed by the statistics on the number of people released from captivity.

1480 Azerbaijani citizens taken hostage during the First Karabakh War have been released. 378 of them are servicemen and 1102 are civilians. Of the civilians, 224 are children, 357 are women and 225 are elderly.

Article 3 of both the III and IV Geneva Conventions prohibits the taking of civilians hostage. These conventions have also been adopted by Armenia. However, during the conflict, the opposition purposefully took hostages and detained them for a long time. One of the main requirements of international humanitarian law is that civilians must be protected, they must not be targeted, tortured or harassed, discriminated against, or returned to the party to which they belong as soon as possible. However, it can be seen that 1102 Azerbaijani civilians were released after being held hostage for a long time as a result of numerous demands and necessary measures taken by the Azerbaijani side. These people were detained under severe torture and inhumane conditions. It is no coincidence that, according to the State Commission, a large number of Azerbaijani hostages could not bear the severe torture and died in captivity. Mr. Ali Nagiyev, Chairman of the State Commission, raised the issue of Azerbaijani citizens who have repeatedly gone missing in meetings with the leadership of international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and at other levels, and asked them to inform the Armenian side about the fate of the missing.

At the same time, the chairman set specific tasks for the State Commission and the Working Group to search for the missing and gave serious instructions.

– Our lands, which have been under occupation for a long time, have already been liberated. Are the places of detention of Azerbaijani citizens captured and taken hostage in the First Karabakh War found in those territories?

– As I mentioned, the treatment of captives and hostages during the armed conflict must be based on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law. At the same time, one of the main factors here is that a distinction must be made between captured servicemen and hostages, and they must be kept in separate places. Detention facilities and camps should be set up in accordance with international standards for the detention of hostages and hostages during the conflict. However, the materials collected by the State Commission, especially the testimonies of Azerbaijani citizens released from captivity and hostage-taking, confirm that the other side held captives and hostages in inhumane conditions and did not organize any camps for captives and hostages.

Especially at the beginning of the conflict, prisoners and hostages were kept in inhumane conditions in separate military units, in the basements, garages and living quarters of individual Armenian civilians, especially in the houses and auxiliary buildings of field commanders. In other words, Azerbaijani captives and hostages were kept in places where there were no conditions for human habitation, under severe torture. After the occupation of Shusha, some Azerbaijani prisoners of war were detained in Shusha prison under severe torture. The analysis shows that the Shusha prison was identified as a place of detention for the physical, moral and psychological torture of hostages. In addition, there are facts of holding captives and hostages in Armenia. This should be emphasized. It is known that the Armenian side has long been giving untrue information to the international community that it did not take part in the conflict. However, some of the people released from captivity during the First Karabakh War confirmed in their statements that they were detained by Armenian special services and in various parts of Armenia. These prisoners were kept in extremely humid, cold cells under special physical, mental, psychological torture and violence. Even a document compiled by Armenian doctors about one of the Azerbaijani citizens who died in captivity in Armenia states that he died of cachexia (die of starvation). These are reflected in the materials collected by the State Commission. These documents contain very serious facts about both the history of the conflict and the violation of international humanitarian law. Of course, these materials collected by the State Commission have a serious legal significance in the field of systematizing the criminal acts committed by Armenia and bringing them to the attention of the international community and filing lawsuits in international courts. Even several detainees testified that while detained in the occupied territories of Karabakh, the Armenian military took them out in front of students in secondary schools and instilled hatred for Turks in children, saying, "Look, this is a Turk, our enemy." These are facts.

– You mentioned there were facts about the detention of Azerbaijani captives and hostages in the Shusha prison during and after the first Karabakh war. Was the prison inspected after the liberation of Shusha?

– Note that at the beginning of the conflict, Azerbaijani captives and hostages were detained in various places, including Shusha prison, and were subjected to intolerable torture.

According to the testimony of many released prisoners, the Armenian military used unbelievable methods to torture them in prison. If we look at history, we can see that back in World War I, Armenian terrorist groups, mainly fighting against Turkey, used horrible forms of torture against captives and civilians. Our research shows that these types of torture were developed in the first Karabakh war and applied in new shades. In other words, the Armenian military did not lag behind its predecessors in this area and even surpassed them.

Investigations into the First Karabakh War show that the Armenian military not only tortured Azerbaijani captives and hostages but also gathered in any open space and tortured them by handing them over to the Armenian civilian population.

At the same time, prisoners and hostages were forced to torture each other. Imagine that many of the prisoners held in Shusha Prison reported that they were forced to make the sounds of dogs and other animals for hours in the courtyard and on the fence. Such unreasonable and only torture products, which are the product of Armenian terrorist thought, have been used against Azerbaijani captives and hostages. In particular, people's teeth are removed with pliers, nails are tacked into their heads, diesel fuel is injected into their veins, and so on. was conducted. Those released from captivity say they beat newcomers to the Shusha prison with an iron mace and forced them to say, "Welcome home." Let me note that after the liberation of Shusha, the employees of the State Commission inspected it. An interesting fact is that when our staff visited there, they found an iron mace about the captives and took it as evidence. We intend to present this mace to the "Museum of Victory" as proof.

– What measures have been taken so far to search for Azerbaijani servicemen missing in the Patriotic War? How many people are currently missing? How many bodies of Azerbaijani servicemen were found and removed from the area?

– As you know, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan launched a counter-offensive operation on September 27, 2020 by the order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ilham Aliyev because of the military provocation committed by Armenia against Azerbaijan. In the 44-day Patriotic War, under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the Azerbaijani Army and people achieved a great victory, and on November 10, 2020, a tripartite Declaration was signed. Paragraph 8 of the Tripartite Declaration provides for the exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees, as well as bodies. After the signing of the Tripartite Declaration, the Republic of Azerbaijan immediately took serious steps to fulfill its obligations. Relevant government agencies included in the State Commission have taken urgent measures in this area. According to the trilateral statement, the parties, through the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent temporarily stationed in Karabakh and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), conducted joint search operations in the liberated territories and handed over the remains.

Over the period passed from the process, the body remains of 396 Azerbaijani servicemen were found in the liberated area. The remains were identified in the relevant laboratories of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and the Ministry of Health under the supervision of the Military Prosecutor's Office and handed over to their families. The bodies of our martyrs were buried in accordance with the military regulations. At present, 6 Azerbaijani servicemen are registered as missing in the Second Karabakh War, and the necessary search operations are underway.

I would like to emphasize these figures at first glance seem statistical, but behind each of these figures are human destiny, the loss of children, and tears. Therefore, on the instructions of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev, all government agencies have taken a very sensitive approach to this issue. Of course, in addition to the tasks set before the relevant government agencies, it is also important that each official has an honest attitude to the issue. I must note that in most cases, specialists in this field have been searching and identifying around the clock, without rest. In particular, forensic experts, geneticists, pathologists, as well as employees of the Military Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the State Security Service, the State Service for Mobilization and Conscription, as well as local executive authorities tried to execute. These bodies work in close cooperation with the State Commission

The head of the working group noted that at the same time, it is unfortunate that the fate of 6 servicemen is not clarified: “As a State Commission, we are very disappointed and concerned. I want to express with great hope that the State Commission will be able to cope with this sensitive task and put an end to the suffering of the bereaved families. This is our most sacred duty today. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the parents and family members of our servicemen who went missing in the Great Patriotic War for their understanding, perseverance and patience.

– How many bodies of Armenian servicemen were found and handed over to the other side?

– As I mentioned above, after the tripartite statement, with the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent temporarily stationed in Karabakh and the ICRC, the relevant government agencies of Azerbaijan and Armenia conducted a joint search in the liberated territories and handed over the remains.

During the search of the area with the participation of the relevant government agencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the remains of 1447 Armenian servicemen were found and handed over to the opposite side. I would also like to say that the official circles of the opposite side emphasize that the remains of 1702 Armenian servicemen were found. The reason for this is that the other side adds to this list the remains found without our participation. In other words, 1447 people were found in the remains of 1702 people provided by the Armenian side with the direct participation of the Azerbaijani side.

– Were unknown graves identified in the liberated areas? In which liberated territories were these graves found?

– As I mentioned, the main task of the State Commission was to search for people missing during the conflict. It is from this context that your question should be approached. As a result of the conflict that began in 1988, as the territories and settlements of Azerbaijan were occupied, numerous war crimes were committed by the Armenian military and terrorist groups. Issues related to the civilian population killed during the occupation, as well as missing persons, in particular, the identification of burial places, have been in the focus of attention of relevant government agencies, as well as the State Commission.

The State Commission has collected and documented a lot of information about this. The same information was provided to the international organizations with which we cooperate. However, taking into account the occupation factor, it is safe to say that the basic information about both public and private burial places is, of course, on the opposite side. However, the other side continues to conceal information about burial places in violation of international humanitarian law. It is also a crime against humanity. But as I said, the State Commission tried to get this information as much as possible. According to the information in the commission, there are grave places in the formerly occupied Fuzuli, Kalbajar, Aghdam districts, Shusha city and its environs, Khojavend district, Hadrut settlement, in and around the city of Khankendi, which is currently under the temporary control of Russian peacekeepers, in the Khojaly region, in the former Aghdara region.

Collection of information on graves is still underway. I take this opportunity to ask anyone who has information about the burial places of our compatriots in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, especially former fighters, as well as our citizens who lived in those territories, to inform the State Commission.

The information can be sent to the official E_mail address of the State Commission (info@human.gov.az) and provided via the hotline 81-61, 405-71-22.

– When is the exhumation of these graves planned?

– Let me note that the number of appeals to the State Commission, as well as relevant government agencies to find our citizens missing in the First Karabakh War has increased after the great victory in the Patriotic War.

These appeals began immediately after the signing of the tripartite statement. By order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the State Commission has been preparing for the relevant work on the graves in the liberated territories from the first days. Taking into account the public interest, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the situation in this area has been analyzed and a special team of specialists from relevant government agencies has been established on behalf of the country's leadership to search, exhume and identify corpses in the liberated areas.

The team includes working group of the State Commission, Prosecutor General's Office, Military Prosecutor's Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Emergency Situations, State Security Service, State Service for Mobilization, State Border Service, Mine Action Agency and Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences specialists. The main task of this staff is to conduct search operations, identify graves, exhumation and identification on the basis of information collected in the State Commission and to be obtained in the future. On the instructions of the Chairman of the State Commission, Mr. Ali Nagiyev, the application of the most modern technologies for search operations is also envisaged. For this purpose, preparations are being made for the use of appropriate drone technology already available in the world. By the order of the chairman of the State Commission, this technology has already been purchased and brought to Azerbaijan.

A delegation of specialists from relevant government agencies has already held its first meetings and begun preparations for the process. Of course, the main factor complicating the work is the mining of areas. After the demining of the areas, exhumation will be carried out intensively. However, taking into account the public's interest in this sensitive issue, I would like to note that preliminary exhumation work has already been carried out and the remains have been removed and relevant examinations have been appointed.

The first exhumation was carried out by the relevant government agencies in the liberated village of Dashalti. Let me note that 44 Azerbaijani citizens who went missing during the failed underground operation on January 26, 1992 were registered with the State Commission. In February of last year, a search operation was conducted in the village of Dashalti, and the graves of Azerbaijani citizens who died during the operation were identified and exhumed.

The remains found in the Dashalti village during the exhumation process were submitted to the Forensic Medical Expertise and Pathological Anatomy Scientific Experimental and Training Association of the Ministry of Health for DNA samples. Identification will begin after the relevant profiles are removed from the DNA samples taken from the remains.
I would also like to note that since the end of last year, the extraction of DNA profiles from biological samples taken from the families of our citizens missing in the First Karabakh War has begun.
Taking into account that it is necessary to identify the remains found in the village of Dashalti, the State Commission initially decided to remove DNA profiles from biological samples taken from the families of our missing citizens in this village. This work is being carried out in the laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In particular, it should be noted that according to the appeal of the Chairman of the State Commission and the Minister of Internal Affairs to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Cabinet of Ministers has allocated relevant funds for this important work.

I would like to note you that 220 biological samples taken from 82 missing families were handed over to the laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to extract DNA profiles. According to the laboratory of the Forensic Research Department, 100% results were obtained from each of the 220 biological samples. That is, the taken bio-samples are suitable for the identification process.

At the next stage, more bio-samples will be delivered for the extraction of DNA profiles. In general, it is important to extract DNA profiles for all biological samples collected and fully collected during the current year for complete identification.

–What projects does the State Commission implement together with the ICRC? What is the role of these projects in determining the fate of captive, hostage and missing Azerbaijani citizens?

–First of all, I would like to note that the State Commission has been working in cooperation with the ICRC since the very beginning.

– In response to the previous question, I noted that the State Commission, together with the laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has already begun to extract DNA profiles from biological samples taken from missing families. I would like to draw the attention of our citizens to the fact that these biological samples were collected on the basis of a joint project with the ICRC.

It is known that in 2008 the State Commission and the ICRC signed a framework agreement on "Collection and centralized management of Ante Mortem information on missing persons." The main purpose of the agreement is to collect detailed information on missing persons as a result of the conflict and use it in future identification of remains.

According to the agreement, in 2014, the State Commission together with the ICRC began collecting biological samples from close relatives of missing Azerbaijani citizens. The collected biological samples are stored in special conditions in the Military Hospital of the State Security Service.

– How many biological samples have been taken so far?

– Let me note that the collection of biological samples has completely covered all regions of the country. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this work was suspended for some time. Taking into account the numerous appeals of citizens to search for the missing, it was decided to continue this work with the ICRC, in accordance with the instructions given by the Chairman of the State Commission, Mr. Ali Nagiyev, last year. Currently, this work is underway in the western regions. According to the plan, the process is expected to be completed by the autumn of this year. As of today, 99,544 biological samples have been collected from 3,079 missing families. About 2,696 biological samples are expected to be taken this year.

The collection of biological samples was an important step in identifying the remains found now and those to be found in future liberated areas. If we did not have these biological samples today, a very difficult situation would arise. Given that some of the missing families are no longer alive due to the passage of time and have moved to other countries, the step taken to take biological samples has helped the State Commission to be ready for the process. Despite the bitter realities of the war, the State Commission will try to achieve a possible result in this process.

– Recently, during the excavation of road construction equipment on the 37th km of the Barda-Agdam road in the liberated area of the Agdam region - Uzundere, the remains were found. Has the medical examination of these skeletons been completed? Could these skeletons belong to missing citizens?

– After the liberation of Azerbaijani territories, a large-scale restoration process was launched and construction work began on the instructions of the President. Taking into account the possibility of identifying graves of people missing during construction work, the chairman of the State Commission sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the beginning of last year.

In the letter, taking into account the need to clarify the fate of those missing in the First Karabakh War, in order to carry out the exhumation of human remains found during excavations in the liberated territories by specialists, the relevant state bodies were asked to inform the State Commission and law enforcement agencies.

In connection with the appeal, the Prime Minister gave a special instruction to the relevant government agencies.

Therefore, the State Commission was informed about the discovery of two unknown remains during the construction of a road in the Agdam region, and representatives of relevant government agencies were sent to the area. The remains were removed and handed over to the Forensic Medical Expertise Pathological Anatomy Association of the Ministry of Health for examination. Necessary measures are being taken to identify the remains. Of course, it is possible that the remains found belong to our missing citizens, but the exact result will be obtained in the process of identification.

– Were other remains found in the liberated territories? Is work going in this direction?

– I would like to note that after the signing of the tripartite statement, the remains of about 140 people related to the First Karabakh War were identified and handed over to the State Commission, both in the territories controlled by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and in the territories temporarily controlled by Russian peacekeepers. 230 biological samples were taken from the Forensic Medical Expertise Pathological Anatomy Association of the Ministry of Health and handed over to the laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. As I mentioned above, work is underway in this area. However, given the nature of the conflict and the Armenian nature, it can be said that the process of identification will take a long time. This is the opinion of experts working in this field.

– According to the State Commission, about 200 unknown bodies buried in the alleys of martyrs in Baku and in the regions were revealed, and appeals were sent to the Prosecutor General's Office for exhumation and medical-genetic examination. Works in this field on what stage?

– The State Commission began work on the identification of these graves in 2005. At the same time, the list of missing persons was clarified. Until then, the lists were inaccurate, and it was important to address them in the first place. This work necessitated other work in parallel.

Since 2005, the State Commission has conducted an investigation in all settlements of the Republic of Azerbaijan, except for the occupied territories, and about 200 unknown graves have been identified and registered. In the next process, the working group of the State Commission together with the State Property Committee extracted and archived the GPS coordinates of the graves.

At the same time, since that time, the State Commission has appealed to local executive authorities to prevent the loss of graves.

At the beginning of last year, the Prosecutor General's Office was asked to exhume and conduct a medical and genetic examination of the remains of martyrs buried unidentified in the cities and regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan during the First Karabakh War. The relevant procedural decision was made on the issue and exhumation was carried out.

According to the information received from the Military Prosecutor's Office, samples were taken from the remains of 171 martyrs in the Alley of Martyrs in Baku, as well as in other cities and regions of the country and handed over to the laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry. The Military Prosecutor's Office continues to work in this direction.

–You mentioned the number of appeals to the Commission has increased after the victory in the Patriotic War. In general, is there any information about Azerbaijani citizens who were reportedly taken prisoner and taken hostage in the I Karabakh war?

– As I mentioned above, as a result of investigations conducted by the State Commission, information was obtained and documented on the capture and detention of 872 of our 3,890 citizens who went missing during the First Karabakh War during intensive military operations. Some of them, along with family members, close relatives, fellow villagers and comrades-in-arms, were taken hostage and detained. Their relatives confirm that they are now seeing the missing in captivity. Despite the fact that there are indisputable facts about the detention of many Azerbaijani citizens and the State Commission regularly brings it to the attention of international organizations, the Armenian side has denied them. The hostages were often kept secret from international organizations, including the ICRC.

However, there were cases when the ICRC visited the hostages and registered them, but later information on them was hidden from this institution. According to the information provided to the State Commission by the ICRC in 1998 and 2001, 54 Azerbaijani citizens taken hostage during the First Karabakh War were visited by the ICRC in detention facilities in the Republic of Armenia and occupied Karabakh, and they were officially registered.

Later, the bodies of 17 out of 54 people were returned, the fate of 4 people was not reported at all, and 33 people died in custody, but their bodies were not returned. Armenia bears legal responsibility for the violation of international humanitarian law. This information was provided to international organizations on behalf of the country's leadership.

This fact fully confirms that there were more hostages in the hands of the opposing side than those released. However, the Armenian side hid them from international organizations and Azerbaijan was not informed. The fact of their detention was hypocritically denied.

– But are there any facts about the use of Azerbaijani teenagers as donors by Armenians?

The State Commission has collected a large amount of irrefutable information about the forcible separation of Azerbaijani teenagers from their families and taken hostage in the First Karabakh War. I just want to draw attention to two of them.

On February 17, 1992, during the occupation of the Garadagli village of Azerbaijan’s Khojavend region under the leadership of Monte Melkonian, an international terrorist of Armenian nationality, the leader of the ASALA terrorist organization, a ruthless genocide was committed against the civilian population.

During the occupation, 57 out of 116 people in the village were killed and buried in a silo, in the yard of the collective farm office and other places. 50 hostages (47 civilians, 2 servicemen, 1 police officer) were released on bail. Although the bodies of 27 of the 57 people killed were later returned to Azerbaijan, the bodies of 30 people were not handed over. At the same time, after the hostage-taking, information about the fate of 9 people, who were first taken to Khankendi and then to an unknown destination, was hidden. 5 of them were teenagers and young people.

Witnesses confirm that on February 26, 1992, during the occupation of the city of Khojaly in the Republic of Azerbaijan by Armenian armed forces, out of 150-200 civilians detained in a barn in the village of Dehraz. 13 teenagers and young boys were forcibly taken from their parents were taken in an unknown direction in “UAZ” cars.

Witnesses say the Armenian military, which captured 13 young people, was led by an Armenian officer named Samvel, a resident of the village of Chanagchi, Askeran region. Despite the fact that 30 years have passed since the incident, the Armenian side, to put it mildly, does not provide information about the future of the 13 teenagers who were taken away from their parents and denies the fact. Four of the 13 young people were members of the same family.

Examples can be multiplied. However, these two facts raise serious doubts about the selection of physically healthy Azerbaijani hostages and their transfer to an unknown destination. Most likely, the other side took these young people to use their organs as donors or to sell them.

According to reports, these people were taken from occupied Karabakh to Armenia. Later, articles and facts about it were published in the international press. At that time, numerous facts about the trafficking of human organs by Armenians were covered in the international press.

–We talked about the Khojaly genocide. The anniversary of the Khojaly genocide is approaching. How many missing people in the Khojaly genocide are registered in the State Commission and what works are being done about them?

– As of today, 196 people were registered by the State Commission as missing during the occupation and genocide of Khojaly by Armenian servicemen and Armenian terrorist groups on February 26, 1992.

A separate case was opened for each of the 196 people, a study was conducted, and information was collected and systematized. The collected information was also added to the electronic databases on missing persons.

Of the 196 people registered as missing during the Khojaly genocide, 42 are defenders of the city, and 154 are unarmed civilians. These figures also confirm that the main target of the Armenian military is civilians. This is completely contrary to the norms and principles of international humanitarian law.

I would also like to note that 95 out of 196 people have information and testimonies about the capture and detention of captives and hostages.

–What has the Commission done about the crimes against humanity and mankind committed by Armenia, the violation of the Geneva Conventions against prisoners and hostages?

In accordance with the Order of the National Leader of the Azerbaijani People Heydar Aliyev dated March 1, 2001, and the tactics of diplomacy of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the State Commission approved the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, carried out consistent, purposeful and systematic work on bringing to the attention of the international community the truth about the crimes of genocide, violation of international humanitarian law in relation to hostages, the "Justice for Khojaly" campaign and "March 31 Azerbaijani Genocide Day" in connection with the anniversaries of the Khojaly genocide, organized a series of events and assisted in holding relevant events in foreign countries and in the country.

In accordance with the Order of the National Leader of the Azerbaijani people Heydar Aliyev dated March 1, 2001, and the tactics of diplomacy of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the State Commission brought to the attention of the international community the truth about the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, the situation of more than one million Azerbaijanis as refugees and internally displaced persons, acts of terrorism and genocide committed by Armenians, violation of international humanitarian law in relation to hostages, conducted a series of events on the anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, a crime against humanity, the "Justice for Khojaly" campaign and the "Day of the Genocide of Azerbaijanis on March 31" organized a series of events, assisted in holding relevant events in foreign countries and in the country.

Over the past period, tens of thousands of materials, films, books, booklets, CDs, and DVDs prepared in more than 20 languages at the initiative and with the participation of the State Commission have been sent to embassies and missions abroad, diaspora organizations, world-renowned universities and libraries and distributed to political scientists and foreign scientists and public figures, and distributed at events. The geography of the distribution of materials covers almost all the leading countries of the world.

The last book entitled "In Armenian captivity: an anthology of torture and murder", published in 2017 in Azerbaijani, Russian, and English on the instructions of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the testimony of more than three hundred people released from captivity on the facts of torture and violation of international humanitarian law by the Armenian military against our citizens.

The information and materials collected by the State Commission were also submitted to a joint investigation team set up in 2003 by the Prosecutor General's Office, the Interior Ministry and the State Security Service to investigate crimes committed by Karabakh separatists forces and Armenian military units.
The main purpose of establishing a joint operational-investigative group was to take the necessary procedural measures to bring the crimes committed by Armenians against humanity and humanity to international courts in the future.

–President of the European Council Charles Michel issued a statement on the results of a trilateral meeting with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nicole Pashinyan in Brussels on 14 December last year. The statement included the issue of missing persons on the EU agenda for the first time, and stressed the need to clarify their fate. In general, is there international support for the work carried out on Azerbaijanis captured, missing and taken hostage in the First Karabakh War?

– Numerous appeals have been made to relevant international organizations to determine the fate of 3,890 people missing during the conflict. Unfortunately, the existing double standards in the world and the unfair treatment of Azerbaijan's justice are also reflected in humanitarian issues. Effective steps have been taken by international organizations to provide the other side with information on missing persons and individual and mass burials in the occupied territories.

So far, international organizations have not demanded that Armenia provide information on the fate of missing persons and demonstrate a constructive position in this area. In this regard, the statement made by the President of the Council of the European Union, Charles Michel, for the first time to include the issue of missing persons in the agenda of the European Union is a step forward.

Let's hope that Armenia will take a constructive approach to this issue raised by the European Union, and will inform the Azerbaijani side about the burial places and missing people in the occupied territories. I would like to emphasize that, in general, the issue of captives, hostages and missing persons has always been in the focus of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev.

– How many Armenian captives and hostages have Azerbaijan returned since the Second Karabakh War?

–One of the requirements of the Tripartite Declaration was the mutual return of captives and hostages. After the signing of the Tripartite Statement, the Republic of Azerbaijan released 150 people of Armenian origin and handed them over to the other side. Out of 150 people, 41 were civilians and 109 were servicemen.

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