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Human Rights Watch Report

Мемориал
Human Rights Developments
Azerbaijan: Nagorno Karabakh

Armed conflict in and around Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian- majority enclave located within the territory of Azerbaijan, has been the bloodiest of the armed conflicts. It began in 1988 and escalated dramatically in 1992, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and creating 256,000 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (unhrc). In 1992 the conflict grew far more lethal as both sides-the Azerbaijani National Army and free-lance militias fighting along with it, and ethnic Armenians and mercenaries fighting in the Popular Liberation Army of Artsakh-began using missile systems, armed personnel carriers, heavy artillery and comparable conventional weapons (all readily available through a very active and lucrative private arms market) and brought the armed conflict to a new, vicious intensity. The lack of any restraining force after the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the conflict. The conflict became a pivotal factor in the internal politics of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, intensifying nationalist rhetoric and hardening Azerbaijan's resolve to end the conflict through combat. Indeed, President Abulfaz Elcibey made a promise during his election campaign in June to solve the Karabakh problem within three months or resign.

Whichever side held the strategic advantage in Nagorno Karabakh at any given moment was the one that most egregiously violated the rules of war. While Azerbaijani forces held outposts in Shusha and Khojaly, they pounded the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, and other Armenian towns and villages with shells and grenades. The indiscriminate shelling and sniper shooting killed or maimed hundreds of civilians, destroyed homes, hospitals and other objects that are not legitimate military targets, and generally terrorized the civilian population. During the winter of 1992, Armenian forces went on the offensive, forcing almost the entire Azerbaijani population of the enclave to flee, and committing unconscionable acts of violence against civilians as they fled. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on February 25 in the village of Khojaly. A large column of residents, accompanied by a few dozen retreating fighters, fled the city as it fell to Armenian forces. As they approached the border with Azerbaijan, they came across an Armenian military post and were cruelly fired upon. At least 161 civilians are known to have been murdered in this incident, although Azerbaijani officials estimate that about 800 perished. Armenian forces killed unarmed civilians and soldiers who were hors de combat, and looted and sometimes burned homes. In its counter offensive, launched in the summer, Azerbaijani forces indiscriminately bombarded Armenian towns and villages from SU-25 aircraft and ground-launched missiles. The Armenian government does not categorize civilian casualties according to the circumstances of their death or injury. Based on interviews conducted in November with more than 50 civilians who were witnesses to or casualties of indiscriminate air bombings, Helsinki Watch estimates that at least 56 civilians were killed as a result of these attacks in August and September alone.

Both sides in the conflict seized and exchanged civilian hostages, and also held corpses hostage, so frequently that the practice became an institution involving private individuals and military and government officials. Both sides held hostages, including women, in prisons or detention centers and distributed hostages as "insurance" among private families whose members were being held by the other side.

Attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict have been unsuccessful. The csce made a valiant effort in the Rome talks during the summer, which were hampered by questions concerning the political status of the self-styled Nagorno Karabakh republic. The talks did not prevent the further escalation of the war.

Freedom of Speech and of the Press

Fragile governments concerned about future political and ethnic stability frequently silenced critics in 1992 by closing or dismantling media sources, confiscating or banning newspapers, and detaining, arresting, harassing and even physically attacking perceived opponents of the status quo.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani government has set restrictions on press coverage of the war in Nagorno Karabakh. On July 10, as the Azerbaijani counter-offensive was getting under way, the Azerbaijani government announced that press access to Nagorno Karabakh and environs would be limited to those journalists "working for the analytical information center of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, Azerbaijani television,...Ostankino [cis television], and `Vesti' [cis television]." The measure was aimed at preventing "subjective interpretations of events and the divulging of military secrets."

Apart from its reporting on Nagorno Karabakh, the press in Azerbaijan is not subject to government restrictions. However, the suspicious deaths during the summer of a Baky journalist and his wife is cause for concern that informal paramilitary groups will exert pressure on the press. In one incident in late August, Salim Mamedov, editor of the newspaper January 20, and his wife Firangizreportedly were killed by unknown gunmen, one of whom was in military uniform. According to the Baky newspaper Vyshka, the bodies were found in Mamedov's home with multiple knife and gunshot wounds. Few believe that the murder was an ordinary common crime. The Azerbaijani parliament, in response to pressure from local journalists, promised a full investigation.

In another incident, Minister of Interior I. Hamidov on October 1 severely beat members of the staff of Mirror in response to an article in it that had said that the Interior Ministry in Nakhichevan (an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan) lacked leadership. According to Turan, President Elcibey met with a group of 36 journalists who had protested the beatings to "express his solidarity" with their concerns about the free press in Azerbaijan.

Armed Conflict

Azerbaijan: Nagorno Karabakh

Armed conflict in and around Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian- majority enclave located within the territory of Azerbaijan, has been the bloodiest of the armed conflicts. It began in 1988 and escalated dramatically in 1992, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and creating 256,000 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (unhrc). In 1992 the conflict grew far more lethal as both sides-the Azerbaijani National Army and free-lance militias fighting along with it, and ethnic Armenians and mercenaries fighting in the Popular Liberation Army of Artsakh-began using missile systems, armed personnel carriers, heavy artillery and comparable conventional weapons (all readily available through a very active and lucrative private arms market) and brought the armed conflict to a new, vicious intensity. The lack of any restraining force after the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the conflict. The conflict became a pivotal factor in the internal politics of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, intensifying nationalist rhetoric and hardening Azerbaijan's resolve to end the conflict through combat. Indeed, President Abulfaz Elcibey made a promise during his election campaign in June to solve the Karabakh problem within three months or resign.

Whichever side held the strategic advantage in Nagorno Karabakh at any given moment was the one that most egregiously violated the rules of war. While Azerbaijani forces held outposts in Shusha and Khojaly, they pounded the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, and other Armenian towns and villages with shells and grenades. The indiscriminate shelling and sniper shooting killed or maimed hundreds of civilians, destroyed homes, hospitals and other objects that are not legitimate military targets, and generally terrorized the civilian population. During the winter of 1992, Armenian forces went on the offensive, forcing almost the entire Azerbaijani population of the enclave to flee, and committing unconscionable acts of violence against civilians as they fled. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on February 25 in the village of Khojaly. A large column of residents, accompanied by a few dozen retreating fighters, fled the city as it fell to Armenian forces. As they approached the border with Azerbaijan, they came across an Armenian military post and were cruelly fired upon. At least 161 civilians are known to have been murdered in this incident, although Azerbaijani officials estimate that about 800 perished. Armenian forces killed unarmed civilians and soldiers who were hors de combat, and looted and sometimes burned homes. In its counter offensive, launched in the summer, Azerbaijani forces indiscriminately bombarded Armenian towns and villages from SU-25 aircraft and ground-launched missiles. The Armenian government does not categorize civilian casualties according to the circumstances of their death or injury. Based on interviews conducted in November with more than 50 civilians who were witnesses to or casualties of indiscriminate air bombings, Helsinki Watch estimates that at least 56 civilians were killed as a result of these attacks in August and September alone.

Both sides in the conflict seized and exchanged civilian hostages, and also held corpses hostage, so frequently that the practice became an institution involving private individuals and military and government officials. Both sides held hostages, including women, in prisons or detention centers and distributed hostages as "insurance" among private families whose members were being held by the other side.

Attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict have been unsuccessful. The csce made a valiant effort in the Rome talks during the summer, which were hampered by questions concerning the political status of the self-styled Nagorno Karabakh republic. The talks did not prevent the further escalation of the war.

Source


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