On 18 April, a group of Azerbaijanis and supporters of international law demonstrated their solidarity with two innocent civilians taken hostage on their own homeland of Kelbajar – a region of Azerbaijan that has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for more than 20 years.
Standing outside the Armenian Embassy in London, they held placards and chanted slogans, reminding bypassers that Nagorno-Karabakh remains Azerbaijani territory and demanding justice for Dilham Asgarov (aged 54) and Shahbaz Guliyev (aged 46 years).
These two Azerbaijanis were taken prisoner by Armenian forces in June 2014 when visiting their relatives’ graves. A third man – Hasan Hasanov (aged 38) – was shot dead. In December, an unrecognised court sentenced Dilham to life imprisonment and Shahbaz to 22 years in jail.
Speaking to Azerbaijani television, Jack Pegoraro, UK Public Affairs Manager, The European Azerbaijan Society, commented: These men were tried by a kangaroo court set up by forces occupying their homeland. Given their age, it is ludicrous to suggest they were anything other than civilians paying respect to their loved ones. We are here to demand the immediate release of these men, and the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories.
The trial and imprisonment of the men violates the European Convention on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and ignores Armenia’s commitment to ignore the obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Victoria Nuland, Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, has requested that these men should be immediately freed. Federica Mogherini, Vice-President, European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned this as an unlawful act, given that they are civilians.
The arrest and ‘trial’ of these men clearly subverts the concept of international law. Armenia has occupied nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory for 20 years. Despite four UN Security Council resolutions being passed against the occupation, it continues to this day. The decision of the occupying Armenian forces to take Azerbaijanis as hostages on their own rightful homeland demonstrates Armenia’s continuing provocative stance.