Baku is investigating alleged war crimes committed by Armenian and Azerbaijani forces during six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, the country’s prosecutor general said on Wednesday.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have traded accusations of war crimes in fierce fighting that erupted in Karabakh in late September, reigniting their simmering conflict for the control of the Armenian-populated region of Azerbaijan.
Videos circulated on social media during the fighting that allegedly showed executions of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani troops and Armenian soldiers defiling the bodies of Azerbaijani servicemen.
Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev told the AFP news agency his office was studying the footage as part of an investigation into the inhumane treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners and the defilement of bodies of Azerbaijani troops.
“We have also initiated an investigation into inhumane treatment of Armenian servicemen that were taken prisoner,” he said in an interview.
“There are many fake videos. But we must say frankly that there also are videos which could be authentic,” he said. “Azerbaijan is a law-based state and we are reacting to such facts.”
He said Azerbaijan had also initiated 73 criminal cases of Armenian forces shelling civilian targets in Azerbaijan.
The attacks “claimed the lives of 94 civilians, including small children, women and elderly people”, Aliyev said, adding that four ethnic Armenian leaders – including the president of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh republic, Arayik Harutyunyan – were charged with war crimes in absentia.
Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan nearly 30 years ago but has not been recognised internationally, even by Armenia.
The fighting that erupted on September 27 persisted despite efforts by France, Russia and the United States to broker ceasefires.
A Moscow-brokered peace deal was announced on November 10 after Azerbaijan’s military overwhelmed Armenian forces and threatened to advance on Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert.
Under the agreement, Armenia is losing control of seven districts seized during the post-Soviet war in the 1990s, which killed 30,000 people and displaced many Azerbaijanis who used to live there.
On Wednesday, Azerbaijan’s army entered Kalbajar, the second district to be returned after Agdam.