WASHINGTON DC, June 15, 2021 – The Armenian Council of America, joined 18 organizations and individuals in a joint letter organized by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in DC, a multi-faith coalition of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, calling on the US State Department to place pressure on Azerbaijan to release Armenian prisoners of war and address religious freedom concerns in the region.
While the welcome news this week that 15 Armenian prisoners of war were released, there are still hundreds of POWs who remain in Azerbaijani custody. Armenia’s Representative Office to the European Court of Human Rights has 240 cases of alleged prisoners of war and civilian detainees pending court intervention with Azerbaijan.
The submitted joint public letter raises serious concerns with the US State Department regarding Azerbaijan’s refusal to return the remaining prisoners of war and captive civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh especially given the numerous credible reports of Azerbaijani forces subjecting the POWs and civilians to torture and other inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment. [see: Human Rights Watch, HART UK].
The letter also calls attention to the reports of Azerbaijani forces destroying historical houses of worship and engaging in speech calling for the eradication of the remaining Armenian population.
The letter calls on the US State Department, in light of the above, to:
-Ensure Azerbaijan immediately releases all its prisoners of war and captive civilians
-Condemn Azerbaijan’s destruction of religious sites and to place pressure on Azerbaijan to ensure the protection of the remaining religious sites in Nagorno-Karabakh.
-Apply Global Magnitsky Sanctions or similar measures on state officials who have been involved in war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh or called for the eradication of Armenians.
-Work to effectively combat speech which dehumanizes Armenians, especially in schoolbooks.
-Review the Waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act With Respect to Assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan.
A copy of the letter is available here.