An odious Armenian general has been accused by human rights activists of violating the Geneva Conventions after he admitted he personally kept hostages during the Karabakh war.
Retired Lieutenant-General Manvel Grigorian, who is a member of the ruling Republican Party’s faction in the Armenian parliament, said over the weekend he had hundreds of Azerbaijani hostages during the 1992-1994 war in which he was one of the feared field commanders.
The 58-year-old former deputy defense minister who holds sway in Etchmiadzin, a city some 15 kilometers to the west of capital Yerevan, even admitted he had kept one such hostage at his own house.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Saturday, Grigorian said he himself named that hostage Simon. “I kept him for four years, two years in Martakert, two years in Armenia, then I handed him over through the Red Cross, because he had a mother, a sister, a fiancée, he wanted to go home very much, and I let him go,” the Armenian general said, adding that the man was a well-trained commando who had been difficult to capture.
Human rights activists in Armenia, meanwhile, insist that the decorated war hero violated the international convention even if he kept the hostage at his home during wartime.
Under the Geneva Conventions, the parties commit themselves to keeping prisoners of war under their control. Individuals have no right to keep prisoners of war at their homes or other locations. Armenia ratified the Conventions in 1992 when the active military phase in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had not ended yet.
“It is a gross violation of international law regardless of whether Armenia at that time was a signatory to the Geneva Conventions or not,” said head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office Artur Sakunts, stressing that no one, including immediate participants in the war, has the right to keep hostages in their homes.
Larisa Alaverdian, who served as Armenia’s first ombudsperson in 2004-2006, also agreed that keeping a hostage at home was a violation of international law, but at the same time she stressed that during the Karabakh war both Armenians and Azerbaijanis kept hostages, hoping to get their family members and relatives back from captivity by way of exchange.
After the war control over all hostages and prisoners of war was, however, transferred to the state, according to the prominent human rights campaigner.
“The process of returning all hostages under state control began after we learned that there were some hostages still kept by individuals at homes or at military units,” Alaverdian said.