NEW YORK —  Azerbaijan’s prosecution of Armenian prisoners of war on illegal border crossing charges is a breach of Geneva Convention III, Giorgi Gogia, associate director for Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, said on Thursday, July 29.

His comments came on the heels of a court in Azerbaijan sentencing 13 more Armenian PoWs to 6 years in prison. The Baku grave crimes court has so far handed 6-year jail terms to 39 Armenian captives illegally being held in Azerbaijan. Earlier this month, Azerbaijan sentenced 14 members of Armenia’s armed forces to various jail terms, while Viken Euljekjian, an Armenian captive and a citizen of Lebanon, was handed a 20-year jail term in mid-June.

“Captured combatants should have been afforded PoW status and returned after hostilities ended!” Gogia tweeted on Thursday.

He reminded that under Article 4 of the 3rd Geneva Convention, PoWs are persons who have fallen into the power of the enemy: Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as militias or volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, operating in or outside their own territory.

Azerbaijan is refusing to return all Armenian prisoners of war, in violation of the statement on the cessation of hostilities signed by the parties in November 2020. The Armenian side has information about some 200 Armenians still in Azerbaijan’s captivity, but Azeri President Ilham Aliyev claims that persons being kept in Baku are not PoWs, but “terrorists and saboteurs”. At least 19 of the hundreds of Armenian captives have been tortured and killed, according to their lawyers.

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