Several Western countries reacted with apparent horror to the images appearing to show the summary execution of Armenian prisoners of war.
Footage shared on social media on Sunday appeared to show several Azerbaijani soldiers gunning down six unarmed Armenian soldiers. Armenia said the footage was taken on September 13.
[Read more: Azerbaijan ‘investigating’ new POW execution footage]
Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department wrote that the United States was “troubled by recent reports of Azerbaijani soldiers executing unarmed Armenian prisoners.”
“We call for a full and impartial investigation. Those responsible for all atrocities must be held accountable.
The United States is deeply disturbed by recent reports that Azerbaijani soldiers executed unarmed Armenian prisoners. We demand a full and impartial investigation. Those responsible for any atrocity must be held accountable.
—Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) October 3, 2022
Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke on the committee’s official Twitter account.
“I condemn the reported execution and probable war crimes committed against unarmed Armenians by Azerbaijani soldiers,” he said. “We must seek justice for every atrocity committed during the recent Azerbaijani attack on Armenia,” he wrote.
I condemn the reported executions and probable war crimes committed against unarmed Armenians by Azerbaijani soldiers. We must seek justice for every atrocity committed during the recent Azerbaijani attack on Armenia. https://t.co/GEAuwvnH5G
— Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (@SFRCdems) October 3, 2022
In a somewhat unusual criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities, the British Embassy in Azerbaijan also said they were “horrified” by the images.
“The British Embassy is horrified by a video which appears to show captured Armenian soldiers being shot dead by Azerbaijani forces. We welcome the announcement by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office of its commitment to thoroughly investigate the video. We expect the results of the investigations to be made public. We expect that all allegations of mistreatment, abuse and summary murder will be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate authorities,” their statement read.
The French Embassy in Azerbaijan said “Videos of Azerbaijani military executions of Armenian prisoners are deeply shocking.”
They also demanded the release of all remaining Armenian prisoners.
The spokesperson for the European External Action Service, Peter Stano, call for an immediate investigation. He said the “horrifying videos” “apparently showed Azerbaijani soldiers executing Armenian POWs”.
“Such crimes must be clearly condemned,” he added.
Other countries were less critical. Russia, Armenia’s traditional ally, did not specifically criticize Azerbaijan.
Commenting on the matter, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on “Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities to immediately carry out a full and thorough analysis of these videos, including signs of war crimes.”
“If the facts are confirmed, all the culprits must be brought to justice to the full extent of the law,” Kommersant cited her as saying.
Turkey and Israel, which unequivocally supported Azerbaijan during and after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, did not comment on the footage. On the contrary, on October 3, the Israeli Defense Minister paid an official visit to Baku, while the Turkish Defense Minister visited Azerbaijan the next day.
Reaction inside Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijani prosecutor’s office has promised to thoroughly investigate the latest footage.
However, they and the Foreign Ministry also accused Armenia of attempting “to mislead the international community and hide its responsibility by disseminating baseless allegations”.
There has been widespread condemnation and calls for an impartial investigation into the footage among Azerbaijani public figures, journalists and opposition politicians. Some, however, also echoed the Azerbaijani government’s complaint that similar attention was not given to past crimes committed by the Armenian side.
Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, for example, said that there was “no excuse” for war crimes on either side and that the perpetrators should be brought to justice.
However, she complained that there were no such calls for investigations in Armenia for past Armenian crimes.
During the 44-day second Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, several videos emerged online in which soldiers from both sides appeared to have filmed themselves committing war crimes. During the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, there was also ample evidence of war crimes, including the Khojaly massacre of hundreds of Azerbaijani civilians as well as the ethnic cleansing hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani civilians from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts, points often raised by Azerbaijanis.
Azerbaijani peace activist and former political prisoner Giyas Ibrahim criticized such responses to the footage.
“What happened in the video is an unequivocal crime. Aliyev knows very well that the day war and conflict end, his power will also end. So he will fuel hatred and conflict,” he wrote on Facebook.
He said local activists who refused to unequivocally condemn the footage and either attempted to question its authenticity or accuse Armenians of similar crimes were “avoiding reality in every sense of the word”.
In this way, he accused them of implicitly supporting the Azerbaijani government and President Ilham Aliyev.
“The Azerbaijani army has already become a criminal tool used by Aliyev to maintain his slavery regime,” he said.