Azerbaijan prosecutor detains man wanted for war crimes during first Nagorno-Karabakh War News
© WikiMedia (Mtaylor848)
Azerbaijan prosecutor detains man wanted for war crimes during first Nagorno-Karabakh War

Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office confirmed in an Instagram post on Saturday that they had detained Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old who was traveling from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia for medical care. Khachatryan will be charged with committing massacres and forced deportations during the first Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1991. Local leaders in Azerbaijan reported stopping the transfer of a critically-ill patient from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, after a man trying to seek treatment by the Red Cross was arrested by Azeri forces on the charge of war crimes some 30 years prior.

In the statement that said it had detained a man “relevant articles of the Penal Code on massacre and deportation of persons of Azerbaijani nationality, destruction and harm of public and private properties resulting large-scale damage caused by members of illegal Armenian armed groups on 22nd December 1991 in Meshali village of Khojaly district,” the Prosecutor General’s office detailed the alleged crimes and said that the investigation was ongoing. Prosecutors say that Khachatryan used firearms and other weapons to raid the Meshali village, killing 25 Azerbaijan nationals, injuring 14 people and expelling 358 others.

Gurgen Nersisyan, the state minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh’s unrecognized government announced on Saturday that Vagif Khachatryan was “taken from the checkpoint” installed by Baku on the border with Armenia and that his whereabouts are unknown. This comes as the Red Cross in Armenia called for all sides must reach “humanitarian consensus” to ease suffering.

One of Nersisyan’s advisers, Artak Beglaryan, confirmed that all medical evacuations from Nagorno-Karabakh have been stopped indefinitely. Beglaryan said that “arresting someone under [International Humanitarian Law] & [International Committee of the Red Cross] protection is a war crime.” He further called on the US State Department and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to demand the release of Vagif Khachatryan by Azerbaijan.

In a further statement which was shared with Azerbijan’s state media, Azerbaijan’s prosecutor’s office confirmed the detaining of Khachatryan and asserted that his crimes amount to genocide.

The EUUS, UK, and other countries have called for the reopening of the Lachin Corridor between Nagorn0-Karabakh and Armenia to civilian traffic. They emphasizea ruling from the International Court of Justice saying Baku must “ensure movement” along the highway.  Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has accused foreign nations of bias and “blatant misinterpretation” of the court’s decision, insisting it is open to supplying Nagorno-Karabakh internally, within the country’s territory, something local Armenian leaders have ruled out.

The first Nagorno-Karabakh War, also known as the Artsakh Liberation War, started in 1988 and began as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is a predominantly Armenian-populated enclave within Azerbaijan. The roots of the conflict can be traced back to the Soviet era, when Joseph Stalin transferred Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in 1923, disregarding its ethnic composition. As the Soviet Union started to collapse in the late 1980s, tensions between the Armenian and Azerbaijani populations in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated. In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, an administrative unit within Azerbaijan, declared its intention to secede and join Armenia. This move was met with resistance from Azerbaijan, resulting in violent clashes between the two communities. As the situation worsened, both sides resorted to ethnic violence and various military actions.

In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and both Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence. However, the conflict did not end and instead intensified. The war primarily involved the armed forces of Azerbaijan, supported by paramilitary groups, against the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s forces, which were supported by Armenia. The armed conflict resulted in a significant loss of life, large-scale displacement of civilians, and the destruction of infrastructure. The war concluded in 1994 with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. The ceasefire left Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories under the control of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is not internationally recognized. Since then, the conflict has remained unresolved, with occasional outbreaks of violence and sporadic negotiations for a permanent settlement.