Armenia Azerbaijan Caucasus

Talking Points, POWs Karabakh War and HRW’s one-sided report

By | Rachel Brooks

December 4, 2020 

Above,local sources have shared photos of Azerbaijani POWs of the Karabakh war. If POWS have been taken on both sides, then why is HRW only reporting the one side of the issue?

Human Rights Watch has released a report detailing the prisoners of war it alleges have been taken from the Karabakh conflict. The report states that the Armenian soldiers have been viciously treated by the Azerbaijani side. However, there does not appear to be an effort to follow up also regarding Azerbaijani soldiers who were taken prisoner by the Armenian side. These prisoners were treated with hostility. 

“(Berlin) – Azerbaijani forces have inhumanely treated numerous ethnic Armenian military troops captured in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Human Rights Watch said today. They subjected these prisoners of war (POWs) to physical abuse and humiliation, in actions that were captured on videos and widely circulated on social media since October,” begins the HRW report on the Karabakh conflict. 

Regarding the issues of the Human Rights Watch press release, we asked the HRW Press to comment on the Azerbaijani side of the conflict as well. 

“Our press release on this topic contains all the information, comment, and analysis that we currently have, and we have nothing to add at this time,” said Human Rights Watch. 

We followed up with a request for comment as to why Human Rights Watch would report the issues with Armenian POWs but would neglect to report the adverse treatment of Azerbaijani soldiers captured at the conflict line. We followed up three times with their main communication’s desk. There was no reply. Also, we reached out to Kenneth Roth, the director of the NGO. He had not responded at the time of this report. 

Not all interactions between Armenians and Azerbaijani are negative. Below is  footage of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Karabakh conversing in Azerbaijan, in a non-threatening manner. Does the western media’s focusing on these two nation’s differences add to the never-ending cycle of escalations?

Should Human Rights Watch also report on the maltreatment of Azerbaijani POWs and balance the scale? How can healthy interactions be promoted by the external world?

In addition to the major communications desk, Republic Underground News requested comment from the Berlin office of Human Rights Watch. This was due to the Berlin office being cited in the report HRW conducted into Armenian POWs treatment and rights. We reached out to Wenzel Michalski, the director for the Berlin chapter of HRW, and likewise reached out to the press offices of Berlin HRW. 

Along with Michalski, we reached out to the colleague that he immediately cited in the shared report, Tanya Lokshina at Europe and Central Asia HRW. We reached out to the director of HRW in Europe and Central Asia, Giorgi Goga. None of the above three parties replied to our requests for comment at the time of this report. 

Also, we reached out to Human Rights Watch regarding the particulars of fact gathering and transparency. We attempted to contact Brian Root, the Senior Quantitative Analyst for Human Rights Watch, to request a statement on the transparency of Human Rights Watch reports, and why we should believe them. He had not responded to our request for comment at the time of this report. 

We also called Emma Daly, the New York communications director, to request contact with the personnel behind the Armenian POW report. We were not able to reach Daly at the time of this report. 

As a major human rights organization, Human Rights Watch should be required to offer full transparency of all of its activities. Human Rights Watch, despite numerous requests for comment, has been reluctant to explain the process of their reports, or to quantify their validity. This occurred in the past when they were reluctant to return our request for comment regarding the bombing of Barda, in which Armenian forces used cluster munitions. Human Rights Watch, in that event, eventually did follow up to the events in Barda with a report that acknowledged that the city had been bombed with illegal cluster munitions. This had led to the death of an eight-year-old child, who was disemboweled via direct impact with the shelling ordinance. 

Talking points: 

Why are western NGOs biased to Armenian human rights?

Why is there prejudice and racism in the west toward Azerbaijan? 

How can the west mediate conversation that engages both Armenia and Azerbaijan as equals?

Will this lead to a more progressive peace process in the Caucasus region?

How does media demonization of either side contribute to the never-ending escalations? 

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