The UN rights chief on Monday decried ongoing “indiscriminate” attacks on civilian areas during fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, warning Armenia and Azerbaijan that such attacks could amount to “war crimes”.
She also voiced concern about “compelling” and “deeply disturbing” video images appearing to show Azerbaijani troops executing two captured Armenian soldiers.
Hundreds of people have been killed since new fighting erupted on September 27 over Karabakh — an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke from Baku’s control during a war in the 1990s.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet pointed out that she and others had called on the parties to “take all feasible steps to avoid, or at the very least minimize, the loss of civilian life and damage to civilian infrastructure.”
“Instead, homes have been destroyed, streets reduced to rubble, and people forced to flee or seek safety in basements,” she lamented in a statement.
“International humanitarian law cannot be clearer,” she stressed.
“Attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction or the principle of proportionality may amount to war crimes.”
“The parties to the conflict are obliged to effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate such violations and to prosecute those alleged to have committed them,” she said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had vowed during talks in Geneva on Friday to refrain from targeting civilian populations, but several strikes against populated areas were reported over the weekend, Bachelet’s office pointed out.
The UN rights lamented in particular “deeply troubling reports that cluster munitions have been used by both parties.”
She also expressed serious concern about videos that have surfaced appearing to show war crimes being committed.
“While many faked images have been circulating on social media, in-depth investigations by media organizations into videos that appeared to show Azerbaijani troops summarily executing two captured Armenians in military uniforms uncovered compelling and deeply disturbing information,” the statement said.
“Under international humanitarian law, the wilful killing of protected persons constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and therefore constitutes a war crime,” it said.