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ICRC ready to support the return of Armenian POWs – ICRC Vice President gives interview to ARMENPRESS

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ICRC ready to support the return of Armenian POWs – ICRC Vice President gives interview to ARMENPRESS

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 30, ARMENPRESS. The international Commette of the Red Cross takes every opportunity to remind States about their obligations stemming from the Geneva Conventions, and is ready to support in the issue of returning war prisoners of the 44 day war in Nagorno Karabakh in 2020, ICRCVice President GillesCarbonnier told ARMENPRESS, speaking about the opportunities of returning the Armenian POWs held in Azerbaijan.

The ICRC Vice President informed that the representatives of the ICRC nearly every month visit the prisoners , assessing the treatment towards them, conditions of detention and make sure if they keep in touch with their families.

Question - Mr. Carbonnier, what has been the main goal of your visit to the region and what results have been achieved in your meetings with ministers of foreign relations, defense and other authorities in Armenia?

Answer - After three decades of neutral presence and humanitarian work in the region, we know that the work doesn’t stop when the fighting does. People are still in need of support, security, safety and assistance. Therefore, the ICRC has no alternative but to insist on preserving the humanitarian space and unimpeded access to vulnerable communities.

Tens of thousands of people need support rebuilding livelihoods and homes. Tens of thousands are displaced. Thousands of families are still waiting for news of their missing loved ones. Infrastructure has been damaged, including dozens of schools.

During my visit I have met the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, and we discussed the humanitarian needs of persons affected by the recent escalation of the conflict. A key issue we focused on was the ICRC’s commitment to facilitate the regional efforts aiming at clarifying the fate of people missing in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Question - Has any progress been achieved in the issue of the persons missing since the first and second Artsakh wars? (ref., 90s and the recent NK conflict escalation)

Answer - To achieve a progress in this kind of issues it usually takes time. In most cases, it takes decades to overcome the humanitarian consequences of conflict, including clarification of the fate of those who went missing. That said, we will not stop working to help bring answers to families living in agony hoping for news of missing loved ones.

Notably, we are calling on the sides to do all possible to clarify the fate of missing persons both since the 90s and the recent escalation.

Question - As a follow-up to your visit, can we expect any progress in the issue of return of the Armenian PoWs and civilians kept in Azerbaijan?

Answer - Over thirty years of our humanitarian work in the region, the ICRC has been visiting people captured on the sides in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. When requested by the conflict sides, we facilitated the release of the detainees or transfer of human remains on the sides.

We have regular access to those detained in connection with the recent escalation, whose detention was confirmed by the relevant authorities. We strive to ensure that the detainees are able to maintain contact with their relatives through different means of communication. The detainees are met in private and are given a possibility to exchange family news through Red Cross messages, pre-recorded video messages and phone calls.

We are committed to continue working with the sides and the Russian counterparts on the search and retrieval operations.

Question - What, in your opinion, prevents from repatriating the Armenian detainees despite the state obligations under Geneva Conventions and the trilateral agreement between Putin-Pashinyan-Aliyev from 9 November 2020? What measures can the ICRC apply to influence the process?

Answer - I’d like to stress that the ICRC is not mandated to negotiate release of individuals deprived of liberty. At the same time, as a neutral humanitarian intermediary organization, it remains available to facilitate the return of released detainees should the sides agree upon it.We are also using every opportunity to remind the states on their obligations stemming from the Geneva conventions.

Question - According to the report recently published by the Armenian human rights advocates, Armenians detained in Azerbaijan are subjected to coordinated state-sanctioned physical and psychological ill-treatment. Does the ICRC, including its office in Azerbaijan, take into consideration these allegations and take any steps towards protecting the rights of the Armenian detainees?

Answer - As you may know, on a regular basis, roughly every month, our representatives visit all those detained in relation to the 2020 autumn conflict escalation whose detention had been notified by the relevant authorities․ During such visits, the ICRC assesses the treatment of the detainees and conditions of detention and helps to ensure that they can maintain contact with family. At the same time, as per procedures of our organization, we do not comment on any of our observations publicly. Observations and recommendations related to these visits are only shared with the detaining authorities.

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