Azerbaijani Soldiers Arrested For Desecration, Vandalism During Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

BAKU – Azerbaijani authorities say they have arrested four servicemen suspected of desecrating the bodies of dead Armenian soldiers and of vandalizing gravestones at Armenian cemeteries during recent fighting over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The arrests were made after investigators studied videos that circulated on the Internet during the six weeks of fighting that ended last month, the Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement on December 14.

According to the statement, two sergeants, Rasad Aliyev and Qardasxan Abisov, are suspected of desecrating the corpses of Armenian soldiers killed during battles in the district of Zangilan.

Two privates, Arzu Huseynov and Umid Agayev, are accused of vandalizing gravestones at a cemetery in the village of Madatli.

"Other videos with possible similar contents are being investigated... Such criminal acts committed by the servicemen of the Republic of Azerbaijan are inadmissible... and individuals who have committed similar violations will be brought to justice, in accordance with law," the Prosecutor-General's Office said.

The office said in November that it had launched a probe into videos showing the possible torture of captured Armenian soldiers and the desecration of corpses.

International human rights groups have urged both Azerbaijan and Armenia to immediately conduct investigations into war crimes allegedly committed by both sides during the latest fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh that ended with a Russia-brokered truce on November 10.

Under the truce deal, some parts in and around the region were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the region's population reject Azerbaijani rule.

They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops and Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region and the seven adjacent districts in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.