Question: How would you comment on the recent proposals by the Azerbaijani party to exchange the Armenians held hostage in Azerbaijan for the Azerbaijani citizens convicted in Artsakh on the principle of “all for all”?
Answer: First of all, it is necessary to clarify the issue of the status of the persons held by the parties. According to the court decision, three citizens of Azerbaijan serve their sentences in Artsakh, two of them, Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Guliyev - for committing a range of grave and particularly grave crimes, including abduction and murder of an underage boy. According to the norms of international humanitarian law, they are neither hostages nor prisoners of war.
At the same time, according to our data, three Armenians, captured by the Azerbaijani party in the recent years, are held hostages in Azerbaijan. They did not commit any crimes in the territory of Azerbaijan. Moreover, two of them have certain health problems. All three are hostages, and their detention in Azerbaijan is a gross violation of the norms of international humanitarian law, as well as the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages.
The motives of the Azerbaijani party are obvious: Baku tries to equate the criminals serving sentences in Artsakh by a court decision and the hostages held in Azerbaijan, so that the proposal of exchange on the principle of “all for all” looks like a humanitarian step. Meanwhile, the real humanitarian step would be the release of the Armenian hostages, as required, inter alia, by the aforementioned Convention. Baku did not do this and, therefore, cannot speak of humanism in this matter.
The authorities of the Republic of Artsakh have repeatedly stated that they did not and do not negotiate on the release or exchange of Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Guliyev. Moreover, the calls for their release are an obvious encouragement of impunity and permissiveness, as it happened in the case of the murderer, Safarov. It is obvious that Azerbaijan once again tries to speculate with humanitarian issues for its political goals.
As a humanitarian gesture, the Artsakh authorities are ready, within the framework of the law, to consider the possibility of the early release of citizen of Azerbaijan, Elnur Huseynzade, who did not commit grave or particularly grave crimes in the territory of Artsakh.
Azerbaijan’s reciprocal steps towards releasing the Armenians hostages, first of all those who have obvious health problems, would demonstrate its readiness to take humanitarian steps, as well as the seriousness of statements voiced from Baku.