WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) welcomes new legislation to be introduced by Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders calling on Azerbaijan to immediately release over 200 Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians, illegally kept hostage over 100 days after the November 9th ceasefire statement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
This bipartisan US House resolution, spearheaded by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), cites findings that Azerbaijani military forces have mistreated ethnic Armenian prisoners of war and subjected them to “physical abuse and humiliation,” including beheadings, summary executions and the desecration of human remains.
The measure specifically highlights “significant concern that female detainees in particular could be subject to sexual assaults and other mistreatment” and asks the State Department “to engage at all levels with Azerbaijani authorities including through the OSCE Minsk Group process to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations under the November 9th statement and international law to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians.”
“The ANCA welcomes this powerful Congressional call for strong and sustained American leadership in demanding Azerbaijan’s immediate release of more than 200 illegally held Armenian hostages,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Suren Hamparian. “We thank Congressman Schiff and his colleagues in the leadership of the Armenian Caucus – Representatives Pallone, Bilirakis, Speier and Valadao – for advancing this bipartisan initiative.”
Armenian Caucus leaders circulated a letter to their US House colleagues asking them to join as original cosponsors of the measure, set to be introduced in the next week.
The ANCA call to action urges US House Members to support passage of the resolution seeking the release of these hostages, while encouraging senators to press for progress on this urgent humanitarian priority and calling on President Biden to take immediate, decisive action to save these Armenia prisoners.
The text of the resolution, as shared with US House Members, is provided below.
U.S. House Representatives Resolution
Expressing the Sense of the House of Representatives That Azerbaijan Immediately Release All Prisoners of War and Captured Civilians
Whereas on September 27 2020, Azerbaijan, with support from Turkey and foreign militia groups, launched a military assault on Nagorno Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, resulting in the deaths of thousands and displacing tens of thousands of ethnic Armenian residents;
Whereas on November 9 2020, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia signed a tripartite statement to end the conflict;
Whereas in signing the November 9 statement, all parties agreed that the “exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees as well as the remains of the fatalities shall be carried out”;
Whereas the third Geneva Convention, of which Azerbaijan is a signatory, and international law require the release of Prisoners of War and captured civilians upon the cessation of hostilities and require that all detainees be treated humanely;
Whereas despite Azerbaijan’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions and their commitments in signing the November 9 statement, more than 100 days after the end of the conflict, the government of Azerbaijan continues to detain an estimated 200 Armenian prisoners of war, hostages, and detained persons, seeking to misrepresent their status to justify their continued captivity;
Whereas Human Rights Watch reported in December 2020 found that Azerbaijani military forces had mistreated ethnic Armenian prisoners of war and subjected them to “physical abuse and humiliation”;
Whereas Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights issued a report on the conflict “documenting crimes against humanity and other atrocities committed by Azerbaijani armed forces and Turkish-backed Islamist fighters against Armenians,” including beheadings, summary executions, and the desecration of human remains;
Whereas there is limited reliable information about the condition or treatment of prisoners of war and captured civilians, and there is significant concern that female detainees in particular could be subject to sexual assaults and other mistreatment;
Whereas Azerbaijan’s continued detainment of prisoners of war and captured civilians calls into serious question their commitment to human rights and negotiating an equitable, lasting peace settlement;
Whereas Armenia has fulfilled its obligations under the November 9 statement and international law by returning Azerbaijani prisoners of war;
Whereas the United States, along with France and Russia, is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group which was created to seek a durable and peaceful solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Therefore be it resolved, that the House of Representatives –
1) Calls upon Azerbaijan to immediately return all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians; and
2) Urges the State Department to engage at all levels with Azerbaijani authorities, including through the OSCE Minsk Group process, to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations under the November 9 statement and international law to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians.