Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that two men were beheaded in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by men in the uniform of Azerbaijani armed forces; and what steps they intend to take (1) to investigate these reports, and (2) to refer this case to the International Criminal Court. (HL11462)
Tabled on: 15 December 2020
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
The UK Government is aware of videos that purport to show appalling acts of violence including beheadings during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Where it is possible to verify the footage and reports, we raise our concerns with the relevant Governments. It is for those Governments to ensure that their armed forces do not commit war crimes and to investigate any allegations. Any decision to make a referral to the International Criminal Court must be made on the basis of what will be the most effective means to bring perpetrators of atrocities and those who have assisted them to account. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas has raised allegations of war crimes with both Governments and urged that they be thoroughly investigated.
Date and time of answer: 23 Dec 2020 at 16:25.
Letter to the Foreign Secretary from the Centre for Armenian Information & Advice
Ref: Recent escalation of War Crimes against ethnic Armenians and POWs 22 December 2020
As members of the British-Armenian community, we are to express our deep and continuing concern that a hereditary
dictatorship (akin to North Korea) that encourages beheadings of civilians, tortures prisoners of war, ethnic cleansing
of indigenous Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and publicly threatens to take over Yerevan, the capital of sovereign
Republic of Armenia, remains unequivocally a major business partner of the United Kingdom, a member of the
Council of Europe, and the United Nations.
Whilst we are grateful for the efforts of the FDCO and several MPs, especially given the critical national priorities
around Brexit and COVID, the UK government’s position on the crisis, with the excuse that some of the evidence
could be unreliable or dated – when the Azerbaijani media itself (not Armenian sources) has exposed despicable
evidence of ongoing war crimes and glorified perpetrators – is cynical and disrespectful towards victims and British-
Armenians with family links in the conflict zone.
It is simply not good enough for a global democracy like the UK to metaphorically shrug its shoulders and hide behind
the cynical statement that “it happens on both sides” as an excuse to step away from its responsibility for strong moral
and ethical leadership on the international stage.
Evidence of war crimes by Azerbaijani forces against ethnic Armenians continues to appear not only on social media
but in leading British mainstream media. The Guardian reported on 15th December: ‘‘The short, gruesome videos of
killings are among the worst of a torrent of footage portraying abuse, torture and murder that has continued to
emerge more than a month after a Russian-brokered ceasefire came into force’’.1
State-managed hate-speech against ethnic Armenians – calling Armenians the ‘hated nation’, was pronounced again
by President Ilham Aliyev during his speech at the victory parade in Baku on 10th December. Aliyev declared that
‘while the battle was over, the war was not’, adding shamelessly that Yerevan, Syunik and Lake Sevan (the capital
city and regions within sovereign Republic of Armenia) are historically part of Azerbaijan.2 These statements
were a highly provocative attack on the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, the region’s only progressive
Aliyev’s only foreign guest at the victory parade in Baku was the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man
who sees the destruction of Armenia and removal of Armenians from the region as critical for his expansionist
strategy to establish a pan-Turkic regime stretching from the Mediterranean coastline to China. President Erdogan, in
his turn, declared in Baku, “today, may the souls of …Enver Pasha, and the brave soldiers of the Caucasus Islam
Army, be happy”. For ethnic Armenians this statement was as revolting and horrifying (Enver Pasha was one of the
architects of the Armenian Genocide between 1915 to1923, when 1.5 million Armenian civilians were slaughtered) as
references to the souls of Hitler and his Nazi cronies would be for Jewish communities worldwide.
Today the uncontrollable expansionism of Erdogan’s totalitarian regime is reminiscent of the German dictatorship in
the 1930s with dreadful consequences for the entire world. Erdogan’s recent tweet “Jerusalem is ours”, glorifying the
Ottoman control over the city of Jerusalem, confirms his obsession with the Ottoman Empire. Jerusalem Post reported
that ‘the raging conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has given Turkey another
opportunity to expand its violent, imperialist tendencies under the iron fist of President Recep Erdogan’’.3
On 10th December echoing the Human Right’s Ombudsmen’s reports and eye-witness evidence since early October,
BBC reported again that at least 2000 Syrian mercenaries were sent to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh, recruited in Turkey
for $2000 a month.4
In the last weeks and days, Aliyev’s military forces have captured villages and districts of Nagorno-Karabakh assigned
to the Armenian side under the Ceasefire agreement. Russian peacekeepers are either powerless or unwilling to defend
the 30 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh that remains Armenian territories. Furthermore, Azerbaijani military operations
continue along the borders of the Republic of Armenia, including the Eastern coast of Lake Sevan, Syunik in the South
and the entire borderline.
Following the Georgian-Russian war in 2008, the exchange of POWs started one week after the ceasefire and was
completed within fourteen days. However, as of 14th December, only forty-four (44) Armenian POWs have been
returned by Azerbaijan six weeks after the Ceasefire. On the following day after the exchange of POWs, over
hundred more Armenian civilians and soldiers were captured and eleven (11) were beheaded by Azeri
militants. Their despicable crimes were shared on social media once again. The International Red Cross has
been unable to establish the exact numbers of Armenian POWs currently held by Azerbaijani side so far.5
These horrific developments continue to violate the Ceasefire agreement of 9 November as well as international
conventions on POWS and Declaration on Human Rights, indicating that peace will remain unattainable for all
people in the Southern Caucasus unless and until state-led aggression, violence and war crimes are condemned
and all perpetrators brought to justice.
We are not asking you to take sides, but to look at both sides. We are asking you to stand up for the principles and the
application of international law in relation to universal human rights for ethnic Armenians endangered by Aliyev’s
dictatorship, rights of minorities under attack by Erdogan’s military expansionism. Accordingly, as concerned
members of the British-Armenian community we strongly urge Her Majesty’s Government to:
• Immediately suspend arms sales to Turkey and Azerbaijan that are consistently being deployed against
ethnic minorities and civilians, including those in the sovereign Republic of Armenia and ethnic
Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh;
• Condemn the military plans of the Aliyev-Erdogan coalition – supporters of Islamic expansionism, ISIS
and Hamas militants, oppressors of intellectuals and dissidents – and to bring the two dictators to Human
Rights’ Court for war crimes across the region and for barbaric, inhumane treatment of Armenian
POWs, the ONLY mechanism to prevent their future war crimes;
• Ensure robust and immediate humanitarian aid for the 90,000+ Armenian refugees registered in
Armenia since the start of the war, and for thousands of ethnic Armenians trapped in Nagorno-
Karabakh, with all basic supplies of water, electricity or gas bombed and unaffordable, left defenceless
after the withdrawal of Armenian troops according to the Ceasefire terms;
• Lead a strong diplomatic, economic and cultural partnership with the Republic of Armenia, as the large
and well-established British-Armenian community stands ready to support British companies in
developing productive bilateral partnerships in line with the UK Government vision for a “Global
Britain” after Brexit.
Due to the urgent nature of the crisis in Armenia, we are confident that you will not just reply without delay.
Misak Ohanian, CEO CAIA