Second interim report on atrocities committed by Azerbajian during the 2016 april war

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Foreword

1. In the early morning hours of April 2, 2016 the Azerbaijani armed forces launched a thoroughly planned large-scale offensive along the entire line of contact between NKDA and Azerbaijani AF, deploying tanks, attack helicopters, heavy artillery, rocket launchers (including 220mm TOS-1 Heavy Flamethrower System Solntsepyok, and 300mm Smerch Multiple Rocket Launchers), and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (including IAI Harop). The Azerbaijani surprise and unprovoked offensive was the largest and bloodiest breach of the cease-fire regime installed in 1994 through a trilateral agreement between NKR, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The active phase of the armed conflict lasted until 12pm on April 5, when by active interference of the international community the cease-fire regime of 1994 was restored.

2. On April 2, 2016 the first evidences of atrocities committed by Azerbaijani AF emerged on social media.

3. NKR Ombudsman Yuri Hayrapetyan condemned the Azerbaijani offensive in a public statement, dated April 2. Later he issued two public reports on the Azerbaijani atrocities. The first report (titled “Interim Public Report on Atrocities Committed by Azerbaijani Military Forces Against the Civil Population of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Servicemen of Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army on 2-5 April 2016”, issued on April 21, 2016) addressed a wide range of human rights issues stemming from the Azerbaijani aggression, including beheadings, torture, and mutilation of combatants’ and civilians’ dead bodies, as well as indiscriminative shelling of civilian objects, etc. The report was prepared based on publicly available information (traditional media, social media etc.). The second report (titled “Legal Assessment: Facts on Human Shielding and Use of Indiscriminate Attacks against the Civilian Population of Nagorno Karabakh by Azerbaijani Military Forces”, issued on May 2, 2016) included evidences of human shielding, as well as indiscriminate shelling by Azerbaijan.

4. As newly-elected Ombudsman of the NKR, I publicly pledged in my speech before the NKR National Assembly to launch a fact-finding mission, aiming to publish a final report on the April 2-5 events. The fact-finding was initiated by the NKR Ombudsman decision of May 11, 2016, under the NKR Law on the Human Rights Defender, Article 11(4).

5. The still on-going fact-finding mission includes numerous on-sight visits, dozens of witness interviews, consultations with military, medical and technical experts, as well as information requests to the respective authorities, and media monitoring. While finalizing the report, I found it appropriate to address a particular issue of extreme importance from the human rights perspective in a separate interim report: the issue of Azerbaijani military’s behavior towards those people (civilians and combatants), who fell under Azerbaijani control for short (from several minutes to one-two hours) or long (a week and more) periods.

6. This report is issued as two editions – public and restricted. Due to ethical reasons, the public version does not include victims’ names and graphic images, while the restricted version does. The restricted version of the report is issued in a small number of copies, with limited access and subject to a non-disclosure commitment.

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