Washington, D.C. - With approximately 200 Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) still held by Azerbaijan more than 100 days after the November 9th ceasefire statement calling for their immediate release and repatriation, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) welcomed bipartisan legislation calling on Azerbaijan to immediately return all Armenian POWs and captured civilians. The resolution, spearheaded by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), along with fellow Armenian Caucus leaders, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David G. Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), was a focal point of the Armenian Assembly’s Virtual National Advocacy Conference and subsequent meetings with Congressional offices. Representative Schiff, who participated in the Assembly's Virtual National Advocacy Conference last week in a panel entitled, “Defending Human Rights and Preventing Atrocities,” stated: “It is unacceptable that more than 100 days after the end of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, hundreds of Armenian service members and civilians remain in Azerbaijani custody, where little is known of their condition, treatment, or well-being." “Azerbaijan has an obligation to release these prisoners immediately – the longer the delay, the more it demonstrates their disregard for human rights and international law. Azerbaijan is already guilty of grave atrocities committed during the recent war, and this compounds the problem. The United States must use all diplomatic means to secure the immediate release of these detained POWs and civilians, and to impose consequences on Azerbaijan for their continued violations of human rights,” added Rep. Schiff. In stark contrast to Azerbaijan, Armenia has abided by the ceasefire statement and has released all Azerbaijani POWs. Azerbaijan remains in clear violation of not only the statement but of the Geneva Conventions, to which it is a signatory. Referencing the inhumane treatment of the POWs, Rep. Valadao said it's “clear this is an issue of both human rights and international law.” Rep. Speier cited the “violent and humiliating treatment” that POWs have been subject to, including the execution of 79-year-old Eduard Shahkeldyan, who died of a blunt brain injury while imprisoned in Baku, and Arsen Gharakhanyan, who was shot in the head by his Azerbaijani captors in January 2021. “The U.S. must do everything in its power to pressure Azerbaijan to release all prisoners of war and captured civilians to their families, pursuant to the agreement signed over four months ago, and must hold Azerbaijan accountable for its blatant disregard for international law.” Rep. Bilirakis stated it was “categorically unacceptable” that Armenian POWs remained imprisoned, and Rep. Pallone remarked that the "Aliyev regime is using these people as bargaining chips,” and that this resolution “sends a strong message that the United States can and must play a key role in helping to solve this issue.” The resolution also calls on the U.S. State Department to engage with Azerbaijani authorities, including through the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, to demand the immediate release of POWs and captured civilians. The full text of the resolution can be found here. “This important human rights legislation sends a powerful message and echoes the concern of so many across the country that Azerbaijan must immediately release all Armenian POWs and civilians held captive,” said Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We commend Chairman Schiff and the Armenian Caucus leadership for the timely introduction of this bipartisan legislation and urge its passage.”
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.