Azerbaijan and Armenia violated international humanitarian law during recent fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, Amnesty International said, as the human rights group accused both sides of killing without discrimination against civilians.
In a report released Thursday, he said there was “clear evidence” that Armenian and Azeri troops repeatedly attacked residential areas far from the front lines during the conflict that lasted for six weeks last year. , noting that weapons, including cluster munitions, had been used.
Due to the extent of the damage they can cause, more than 100 countries have banned cluster munitions, unlike Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan claims that at least 94 civilians and more than 2,800 soldiers were killed in the clashes, while Armenia claims at least 60 civilians and 2,400 soldiers were killed.
Amnesty estimated the total death toll among civilians at 146, as it called on the two countries to investigate the use of “notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate weapons”.
Armenian forces used inaccurate ballistic missiles, unguided multiple launcher systems (MLRS) and artillery, while Azerbaijan deployed unguided artillery and MLRS, the Defense Group said. rights as a result of field investigations.
“By using these imprecise and lethal weapons near civilian areas, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have violated the laws of war and shown contempt for human life,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty Director for Europe. from East and Central Asia.
“Civilians have been killed, families have been torn apart and countless homes have been destroyed. Attacks were carried out on several occasions against civilian residential areas far from the front lines and where there often did not appear to be military targets nearby. “
Amnesty said civilian casualties “almost certainly” would have been higher if people had stayed in the affected areas.
In Stepanakert, a central town in Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic Armenians have fled the fighting on their way to Armenia or have entered bunkers for shelter.
When Azerbaijanis were targeted in civilian areas, many left their towns for safer areas.
“The Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities must immediately launch impartial investigations into the relentless and often reckless use of heavy explosive weapons by their forces in populated civilian areas,” Struthers said.
“As the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders begin to work out security arrangements, it is essential that those responsible for these violations are promptly held to account and that the victims receive redress.”
But as is often the case with the two rivals, both sides have denied the other’s claims of indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas during the fighting, which ended in November with a peace deal brokered by the United Nations. Russia.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces and self-proclaimed Armenian officials, backed by Armenia since a war in the mountainous region led to a cease-fire in 1994. lives.
‘Our family has been destroyed’
Amnesty researchers documented 18 attacks by Armenian and Azerbaijani forces that “unlawfully killed civilians” while visiting dozens of sites in the region.
Eight were launched by Armenian forces at towns and villages in Azerbaijan, killing 72 civilians, the rights group said.
In an attack on September 27, the day the clashes erupted, Armenian forces killed five members of the Gurbanov family and partially destroyed their home in Gashalti, near the Azerbaijani town of Naftalan, according to Amnesty’s report. .
“Our family has been destroyed. We started renovating the house before the war, now we can’t stand being here anymore, ”Bakhtiar Gurbanov, who lost his parents, sister-in-law, nephew and niece, told Amnesty.
Azeri troops have been accused of nine attacks on towns and villages in Nagorno-Karabakh, in addition to one in Armenia, killing 11 civilians.
In another incident on September 27, Amnesty said Azeri forces carried out 12 attacks in four minutes in Martuni, Nagorno-Karabakh, fatally injuring an eight-year-old girl, Victoria Gevorgyan.
“Victoria was our little angel. She’s gone… My little boy always wakes up saying that there are planes in the sky bombing, ”Victoria’s mother Anahit Gevorgyan told Amnesty.
After hostilities resumed in September, the Azerbaijani army pushed into the region and surrounding areas with heavy artillery and drones.
Moscow negotiated the truce to stop the bloodshed; the ceasefire locked in territorial gains for Azerbaijan.
Under the agreement, Russia has deployed around 2,000 peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh for at least five years.