By Paul Goble
One of the most hopeful developments in the wake of the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 was Baku’s announcement that it had launched an investigation of four of its soldiers who are suspected of committing war crimes against Armenian combatants (genprosecutor.gov.az/az/post/3271).
A first for Azerbaijan, this announcement raised hopes in many quarters that the two sides in this long-running conflict might be able to overcome some of the bitterness between them, that Baku was committing itself to international standards in this area, and even that the Azerbaijani authorities might be ready to adopt a more humane approach to domestic opponents.
But now, 12 months later, nothing more has been heard about this case despite numerous national and international efforts to find out where it stands. Armenia has not launched any investigations of its soldiers for equivalent crimes against Azerbaijanis, as Baku invariably points out. And as a result, the hopes of a year ago appear to have been dashed.
Human rights groups and the Council of Europe have pressed Baku for information on the investigation it reported launching a year ago but so far without success (russian.eurasianet.org/спустя-год-после-арестов-за-военные-преступления-азербайджан-хранит-молчание, phronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/NK_final_report_2021.pdf, hrw.org/news/2021/03/19/azerbaijan-armenian-pows-abused-custody and coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/humanitarian-and-human-rights-protection-needed-following-the-2020-outbreak-of-hostilities-between-armenia-and-azerbaijan-over-nagorno-karabakh%5C).
Armenia has joined in the international criticism of Baku’s failure to act, but Baku has responded by pointing out that it has at least raised the issue while Armenia seems committed to stonewalling all attempts to bring its own soldiers to justice for such crimes (rm.coe.int/commdhgovrep-2021-13-comments-by-azerbaijan-on-memorandum-of-coe-hr-co/1680a46e1d).