United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has expressed alarm over continuing indiscriminate attacks in populated areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Despite a recent agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, attacks on civilians continue. Bachelet said these could amount to war crimes and were in violation of international humanitarian law.
Since the conflict reignited in September with the terrible consequences we are now seeing, there have been repeated calls, including by myself, for the parties to take all feasible steps to avoid, or at the very least minimize the loss of civilian life and damage to civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals – as well as to distinguish civilians from combatants, and civilian objects from military objectives,” she said.
“International humanitarian law cannot be clearer. Attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction or the principle of proportionality may amount to war crimes, and the parties to the conflict are obliged to effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate such violations and to prosecute those alleged to have committed them.”
In October, Human Rights Watch called on Azerbaijan to stop using cluster munitions in residential areas.
The organisation visited the region during October 2020 and found four incidents were Azerbaijan had used the weapons.
“The continued use of cluster munitions – particularly in populated areas – shows flagrant disregard for the safety of civilians,” said Stephen Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “Cluster munitions should never be used by anyone under any circumstances, much less in cities, due to the foreseeable and unacceptable harm to civilians.”
Fighting in the region between Azerbaijan and Armenia has intensified in recent weeks following the breaking of two humanitarian ceasefires. Both sides have reported scores of civilian deaths and injuries.