A view shows a burnt tank near Hadrut town, which recently came under the control of Azerbaijan's troops following a military conflict against ethnic Armenian forces, in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nov. 25, 2020.
FILE - A view shows a burned tank near Hadrut town, which recently came under the control of Azerbaijan's troops following a military conflict with ethnic Armenian forces, in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nov. 25, 2020.

Human Rights Watch accused Azerbaijani forces Wednesday of brutalizing some Armenian troops captured in the conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Acts of mistreatment were captured on video and circulated on social media over the past two months, HRW said. Azerbaijan says it will investigate.

The rights group said in a statement the videos show “Azerbaijani captors variously slapping, kicking, and prodding Armenian POWs” and forcing them to “kiss the Azerbaijani flag,” praise Azerbaijan’s president, swear at Armenia’s prime minister “and declare that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan.”

HRW official Hugh Williamson said humanitarian law requires that POWs be protected and called on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately end the inhumane treatment.

The number of POWs in custody is unknown but HRW, citing Armenian officials, estimated the number is in the “dozens.”

Ethnic Armenian soldiers sit in a military truck on a road during the withdrawal of troops from the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nov. 19, 2020.

Hikmat Hajiyev, assistant to the president of Azerbaijan, told PBS Newshour that all war crimes committed by Azerbaijani soldiers will be investigated: "We do regret such kind of incidents happened...it is unjustifiable, in no way it can be justified...All of these videos are going to be investigated. And who are guilty, of course, will be brought to justice."

The HRW report acknowledged that some of the prisoners depicted in the videos have since communicated with their families and said they are being treated well, but it said there remain serious grounds for concern about their safety and well-being.

HRW also said Armenia has captured Azerbaijani troops and that it is investigating videos on social media that apparently show Azerbaijani POWs being abused.

Armenia signed a Russian-brokered deal with Azerbaijan on Nov. 9 after six weeks of intense fighting.

The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted Sept. 27, marking the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region since a 1994 cease-fire.

The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire. That independence, however, is not internationally recognized.
 

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