STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have accused Azerbaijani forces of beheading three Armenian soldiers and mutilating the dead bodies of more than a dozen others during recent heavy fighting around the territory.
Karabakh prosecutors identified the three servicemen this week after launching formal criminal proceedings in connection with the alleged war crimes. They claimed that one of them, the 31-year-old Major Hayk Torosian, was still alive then his Azerbaijani captors began cutting off his head.
The headless body of another soldier, Kyaram Sloyan, was handed over to his family and buried on April 4, two days after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive at two sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.” The family living in a village in central Armenia received the 19-year-old’s severed head a few days later.
The Armenian military said that Azerbaijan handed over Sloyan’s head as part of exchanges between the two warring sides of the bodies of soldiers killed by them during the four-day hostilities. The mutual handovers were facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Military authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert alleged in April that virtually all of the recovered bodies of 18 Armenian soldiers had traces of mutilation. They said they will present evidence of the war crimes to foreign governments and international human rights bodies.
Azerbaijan’s government and military strongly denied the allegations. They claimed that the Armenians themselves mutilated the bodies of dozens of Azerbaijani soldiers killed in the worst fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone since 1994.
According to the Karabakh prosecutors, 15 Armenian soldiers had their ears cut off after being killed by Azerbaijani forces on April 2.
Commenting on the latest allegations, Davit Babayan, a senior Karabakh official, said on Friday that the international community must react to what he called a manifestation of Azerbaijani “fanaticism and fascism.”
“Normal people could not have done such things,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “This once again shows who we are up against.”