The body of a LAR-160 series Israeli-made rocket and two unexploded M095 submunitions in a residential neighbourhood in Stepanakert (Human Rights Watch)

NEW YORK — Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Azerbaijan on Friday of repeatedly using widely banned cluster munitions in the shelling of civilian areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“During an on-site investigation in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented four incidents in which Azerbaijan used cluster munitions,” the U.S.-based group said in a report.

The report says that HRW researchers have identified the “remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-160 series cluster munition rockets” in the Karabakh capital Stepanakert and the town of Hadrut and examined damage caused by them.

“Azerbaijan received these surface-to-surface rockets and launchers from Israel in 2008–2009,” it says.

“The continued use of cluster munitions – particularly in populated areas – shows flagrant disregard for the safety of civilians,” said Stephen Goose, the head of HRW’s arms division sector.

“The repeated use of cluster munitions by Azerbaijan should cease immediately as their continued use serves to heighten the danger for civilians for years to come,” Goose said.

London-based Amnesty International also condemned the use of cluster rockets against residential areas in Karabakh following the September 27 outbreak of large-scale hostilities between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. In an October 5 statement, it described the practice as “appalling and unacceptable.”

“Azerbaijani officials have accused the Armenian side of using cluster munitions in this conflict, but Human Rights Watch has not independently verified those claims,” says the HRW report. It says the Azerbaijani authorities have refused to allow HRW to conduct a similar on-site investigation on Azerbaijani-controlled territory.

“Neither Armenia, nor Nagorno-Karabakh de-facto authorities, are known to stockpile cluster munitions but they possess multi-barrel rocket launchers capable of delivering these weapons,” it concludes the report.

According to officials in Stepanakert, the war has left nearly 40 Karabakh civilians dead so far. Thousands of others have taken refuge in Armenia.

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