UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has decried "indiscriminate" attacks on civilian areas during ongoing fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, warning Armenia and Azerbaijan that such attacks could amount to "war crimes" under international law.
There have been repeated call for the parties to the conflict “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,” Bachelet said in a statement on November 2.
“Instead, homes have been destroyed, streets reduced to rubble, and people forced to flee or seek safety in basements,” she lamented.
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Bachelet expressed concerns about videos that appear to show war crimes being committed.
“While many faked images have been circulating on social media, in-depth investigations by media organizations into videos that appeared to show Azerbaijani troops summarily executing two captured Armenians in military uniforms uncovered compelling and deeply disturbing information,” according to the statement.
She also cited “deeply troubling reports” that cluster munitions have been used by both parties.
“I call once again on Armenia and Azerbaijan to stop using them, and to join the more than 100 states that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions which comprehensively bans their use,” the UN high commissioner said.
More than 1,100 people, including civilians, have been confirmed killed since clashes erupted on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The real toll is believed to be higher since Azerbaijan has not released its military fatalities.
The region is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population, reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops were pushed out of Nagorno-Karabakh in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.