The ICRC's protection activities in Azerbaijan focus on two traditional ICRC fields -
protection activities related with the conflict (work on behalf of prisoners and on behalf
of the families of missing persons) and visits to people deprived of their freedom.
|PROTECTION ACTIVITIES RELATED WITH THE CONFLICT
Prisoners of war
In Azerbaijan, the ICRC Protection team has been visiting people who are detained in
connection with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict since 1992. The aims and procedures of these
visits are those used by the ICRC world-wide. By registering prisoners and repeating the
visits the ICRC monitors their situation until the day of their release, and assesses how
prisoners are treated and in what conditions they are kept. In order to get a full picture
of the situation, delegates talk to the prisoners in private, as well as visit the
premises and discuss problems with the authorities in charge of the place of detention.
The delegates make confidential reports on their findings to the detaining authorities on
Very importantly, the ICRC offers the prisoners it visits the opportunity to write
messages, known as "Red Cross Messages" to their families. Designed exclusively
for exchanging personal greetings and family news, these Messages provide vital moral
support for persons in prison and are the only means of keeping in touch with their
families. ICRC delegates based in Erevan and Khankendi/Stepanakert also visit people
detained in relation with the conflict, on the basis of the same standard modalities, in
close co-ordination with the Baku delegation regarding the transmission of the Red Cross
Messages of the prisoners. If a prisoner himself should so choose, the ICRC will inform
the authorities of his country of origin that he is being visited by the ICRC. In order to
fully discharge its mandate of protecting prisoners, it is important that the ICRC is
notified and allowed to visit all persons detained in relation with the conflict as soon
as possible after their arrest.
When the relevant authorities reach a decision to release one or more prisoners, the
ICRC, on request, supports the authorities in the practical arrangements necessary to
repatriate these people. The ICRC has been involved in the repatriation of more than 390
persons since the start of its work in the Southern Caucasus. However, before agreeing to
assist in a repatriation, the ICRC always ensures by means of a private interview with the
person concerned that he or she wishes to be sent home.
Families of members of the armed forces or civilians who have gone missing in
connection with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict have been approaching the ICRC in Azerbaijan
since 1992. Based on the details given by the families, the ICRC can approach the
authorities of all parties to the conflict with a request to clarify the fate of these
persons. International Humanitarian Law (IHL) obliges parties to a conflict to search for
persons reported missing by an adverse party. The main role of the ICRC is the
transmission of information on such persons to the parties. To this end the ICRC has made
individual and collective interventions to all parties involved in the Nagorny Karabakh
conflict regarding several thousand persons.
Meanwhile, the ICRC continues to accept tracing requests from relatives of missing
persons, and to meet with those families who have already submitted requests. ICRC
delegates also meet with people who may be able to give eyewitness information regarding
the fate of missing persons.
Sadly, some people may receive the news that their missing family member has deceased.
On the agreement of the parties involved and at the In particular, in June 1997 the names
of 2,300 persons of both Azeri and Armenian origin whose families had approached ICRC
delegations were submitted to all parties to the conflict, with a request to provide
information on the fate of these persons for their families. Unfortunately, there has been
no concrete reaction to this demarche and the vast majority of these families still
have no news of their loved ones. The ICRC is of the opinion that significant progress in
this humanitarian issue can only be made if the parties to the conflict will co-ordinate
their efforts to clarify the fate of these persons. The ICRC stands ready to offer its
assistance in such endeavours. To this end, it has again in August 2000, suggested a
global and humanitarian mechanism between the parties.
request of the family, the ICRC has, on request, provided logistic support in the
repatriation of mortal remains. While reminding all parties of their obligations in view
of the universally recognized right of families to know the fate of their relatives, the
ICRC pledges its firm commitment to this task and its solidarity with the families. It
will continue its efforts to help trace persons unaccounted for and it appeals to all
authorities to assume their responsibilities in this matter.
The ICRC also offers its Red Cross Message service to families split up due to the
conflict, who have no other means of communication owing to the breakdown of postal
services. The ICRC has also organised family reunions for such families in very
The delegation of the ICRC in Azerbaijan provides support to the Tracing Service of the
Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, which strives to re-establish family links for cases not
connected to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict.
|VISITS TO PEOPLE DEPRIVED OF THEIR FREEDOM
On 1 June 2000, an Agreement granting the ICRC access to all places of detention and to
all people deprived of their freedom was signed by the Minister of Justice on behalf of
the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and by the Head of Delegation of ICRC in
Baku. On 9 June 2000, this Agreement was ratified by the President of the Republic of
Azerbaijan. The first visit to a prison in accordance with standard ICRC working
procedures started on Friday 23 June 2000.
The character of the ICRC's visits to persons deprived of their freedom is exclusively
humanitarian. During its periodic visits to places of detention and to detainees, the ICRC
examines the conditions of detention and the treatment of the persons visited. To
guarantee the effectiveness and credibility of such visits, its delegates have access to
all places of detention and all premises in each place of detention and to all detainees,
and may converse freely and privately with the detainees of their choice. The ICRC
regularly submits, on a strictly confidential basis, reports and recommendations to the