August 30 is International Day of the Disappeared. This day was established by the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2010.
Azerbaijan is one of the countries in the world facing the most painful problems regarding missing persons. Fate of thousands of Azerbaijanis, became missing as a result of aggression and occupying policy of Armenia during the First Karabakh War, is unknown until today.
State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established in 1993 to eliminate the consequences of humanitarian crisis appeared regarding Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan. Since establishment, the State Commission has been closely cooperating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in accordance with international humanitarian legal norms, joined by the Republic of Azerbaijan.
3,890 Azerbaijani citizens were registered by the State Commission as missing person in the First Karabakh War as a result of Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan. 3,171 of them were servicemen, 719 civilians. 71 of the civilians were minors, 267 were women, and 326 were elderly people.
872 from the total missing persons, including 29 children, 98 women, and 112 elder people were taken hostage or remained in the occupied territories. Later, released hostages confirmed that they had seen those persons alive.
During the whole period of the conflict, Armenia hid information about these persons from international organizations, and avoided providing information about their future fate.
ICRC representatives held meeting with 54 of the persons, became missing in the First Karabakh War, at different times when they were taken hostage by Armenia and were alive. Bodies of 17 of them were handed over later, although information on death of 33 of them was provided, their bodies were not handed over, while no information was received about 4 of them in general.
1,480 Azerbaijani persons were released from Armenian captivity during the First Karabakh War.
In accordance with the framework agreement signed between ICRC Representation in Azerbaijan and State Commission “On collection and centralized management of ante mortem data about the missing persons” in April 2008, work of gathering biological examples (DNA) from missing persons’ families has been started from 2014. Over the past period, 10,309 biological samples were taken from family members of 3,315 missing persons. Since November of 2021, work of DNA profiling has been started from gathered biological samples. DNA profiling has been conducted on each of 1,024 biological samples so far.
Main reason preventing determination of fate of persons, became missing during conflict, was a fact of occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia until November 10, 2020. However, main facts preventing determination of fate of missing persons at the current situation are Armenia’s non-provision information on places of burial and existence of numerous mines in the liberated from occupation territories.
Although it was repeatedly raised and discussed at different-level meetings and on different platforms, the Armenian side does not provide information on burial places of the missing people in the First Karabakh War.
Several measures have been taken to clarification of fates of missing people in the First Karabakh War after the victory in the 44-day Patriotic War.
Human remains of 82 persons have been detected and taken during exhumation of mass grave in the territory of Shusha district, Dashalti village, Khojavend district, Edilli village, Farrukh and Dashbashi villages of Khojaly district, as well as during reconstruction works in liberated from occupation Aghdam, Shusha, Goygol, Terter, Fuzuli, Kalbajar, and Zangilan districts from February 2021 until April 2022.
183 human remains from 191 unknown First Karabakh War martyr graves have been exhumed in 21 cemeteries in 13 cities and regions of the Republic.
Besides multi-year cooperation with the ICRC, State Commission has signed a Protocol on Cooperation with representatives of the International Commission on Missing persons in April of the current year hoping for new opportunities in resolution of the tasks ahead.
Search for 6 Azerbaijani servicemen, who became missing in the Patriotic War, is continued.
Many international legal norms, as well as requirements of international humanitarian law were grossly violated by Armenia during its military aggression against Azerbaijan. Against war rules, civilian people were not protected, in contrary, they were taken hostage and killed in many cases. In many cases, hostages and prisoners of war were subjected to unprecedented torture and killed and their bodies were not given to the Azerbaijani side to hide signs of torture.
Barbaric behavior of the Armenian side with hostages-captives can be classified as following:
- Killing Azerbaijani hostages-captives on graves of Armenian soldiers and commemoration days of the so-called “Armenian genocide”;
- Making hostages-captives anti-Turkish, anti-Azerbaijani ideological-provocation tool, in order to increase the feeling of hatred, their being handed over to the civilian population and humiliated and insulted in the public square, being put in an insulting situation and driven around residential areas, forcing them to appear on various TV channels and give interviews against their country;
- Use of captives and hostages as slaves, their use in the demolition and looting of historical monuments, cemeteries, houses and administrative buildings in occupied settlements, in other words, their use in acts of vandalism, and their employment in harmful production areas
- Subjecting them to terrible torture and detenting in inhumane conditions, regardless of age and gender;
- Detention of captives and hostages in the prisons together with the people of Armenian origin who committed grave crimes in Armenia;
- Illegal interrogations accompanied by terrible tortures to obtain various information in violation of the Geneva Conventions;
- Turning captives and hostages into various medical and other experimental objects, irradiating their bodies and injecting substances of unknown composition;
In most cases, the following human rights of our missing citizens were violated:
- Not to be tortured;
- The right to be recognized as an individual before the law;
- The right to freedom and immunity;
- Right to live.
The Armenian side does not cooperate in finding missing Azerbaijani citizens. It is clear that the Armenian side, which treats its captives and hostages in violation of international law and brutally kills them in most cases, refuses to cooperate in this direction in order to prevent the revelation of its criminal acts.
During the occupation of Kalbajar region in April 1993, one of such war crimes of Armenia against the people of Azerbaijan was exposed by the radio counter-intelligence service of the relevant state institutions of Azerbaijan.
In the obtained material, an urgent order was issued from the headquarters radio station in the Basarkecher region of Armenia to the main radio station in the Kalbajar combat zone, to all mobile radio stations in the region to immediately destroy and bury captured and hostage Azerbaijani citizens, including the elderly, women and children. The goal was to hide the traces of their crimes from the international delegation that came to the war zone at that time.
There are facts that relatives who were looking for their close people were deceived and taken hostage or killed.
- On December 31, 1992, Isayev Jahangir Ismayil and his sister's husband Mammadov Mammad Garib, who were engaged in the search for his brother Isayev Asgar Ismayil, who went missing in the border area with Armenia in Gazakh region, went to the border area of Armenia with Georgia and entered into a conversation with the Armenians there on November 7, 1993, and in the end, they were taken to Armenia under the pretense that they would meet Asgar Isayev and release him. At present, the fate of all three of them is unknown.
- Relatives of Azerbaijan Army soldier Guliyev Khagani Nureddin, who went missing during the battles for the Aghdara region of Azerbaijan in February 1993, made contact with Armenians living in Russia on their own initiative. Armenians, who convinced them that Khagani Guliyev is alive, said that they will release him in exchange for USD 25 thousand. Khagani Guliyev's brother Mahir Guliyev, who collected that amount with the help of his close relatives, went to Russia in the summer of 1996. But Armenians have killed Mahir Guliyev himself who brought that amount and took money and run.
There are also facts of coercive co-operation of captives and hostages by means of threats and blackmail by the Armenian special services and inciting them to commit acts of terrorism and sabotage against the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Khojaly genocide is a clear example of Armenia’s violation of the international humanitarian law norms. In 1992, on February 26, the city of Khojaly was completely besieged by Armenia and razed to the ground, civilians were ambushed and tortured. 613 people, including 63 children, 106 women, and 70 old people were brutally killed. 8 families were completely destroyed, 25 children lost both, 130 children lost one of their parents. 487 people, including 76 children, were injured.
Hundreds of Azerbaijanis were captured and taken hostage during the Khojaly genocide. Fates of 196 of them, including 36 children, and 65 women, remain unknown. Every country has commitments to investigate the mentioned crimes and human rights violations, bring the culprits to justice, prevent a repetition of such violations, as well as to provide the relevant rights to the families of the victims.
In this context, Azerbaijan also takes all relevant measures regarding the missing citizens and their family members in accordance with the requirements of international law and national legislation. State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons operates in the country. The Commission takes measures on the returning of hostages and captures to the homeland and researching of the missing people,
The commission carries out measures related to the return of captures and hostages, the search for missing persons, coordinates the activities of relevant state bodies, public and international organizations in this field, collects information about captured and missing citizens, hostages and ensures the registration and systematization of this information, and performs other duties assigned to the Commission.
Azerbaijan conducts works in order to attract the global focus on the issue of missing persons and hostages at the international level. At the initiative of Azerbaijan, a resolution regarding the “Missing Persons” is adopted at the UN General Assembly every two years.
Azerbaijan is also the main initiator of the resolution “On the release of women and children taken hostage during armed conflicts, adopted by the UN Commission on the Status of Women."