“Over the weekend, footage consistent with the use of cluster munitions in the city of Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was published by the region’s de facto authorities,” the London-based human rights group said in a statement issued late on Monday.
“Amnesty International’s Crisis Response experts were able to trace the location of the footage to residential areas of Stepanakert, and identified Israeli-made M095 DPICM cluster munitions that appear to have been fired by Azerbaijani forces,” added the statement.
“Cluster bombs are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and their deployment in residential areas is absolutely appalling and unacceptable,” it quoted Denis Krivosheev, a senior Amnesty representative, as saying. “As fighting continues to escalate civilians must be protected, not deliberately targeted or recklessly endangered.”
Krivosheev stressed that the use of cluster munitions, which scatter many bomblets over a wide area, is “banned under international humanitarian law.”
Stepanakert and other Karabakh towns have been heavily shelled by Azerbaijani forces in recent days, forcing many of their residents to hide in bomb shelters or flee to Armenia. Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, Artak Beglarian, has accused Baku of deliberately targeting the disputed region’s civilian residents and infrastructure.
According to Beglarian, 19 Karabakh civilians have been killed and 80 others wounded since the September 27 outbreak of large-scale hostilities along the “line of contact” around Karabakh. The fighting has also left two residents of Armenian villages close to the Azerbaijani border dead.
For its part, Azerbaijan has reported extensive Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani cities and villages. Authorities in Baku said on Tuesday that 27 Azerbaijani civilians have died as a result.
“Azerbaijan reported that the Armenian forces attacked civilian areas in the country’s second largest city of Ganja, as well as other towns,” Amnesty International said in this regard.
“While Amnesty International experts have verified that 300mm Smerch rocket artillery systems do appear to have been used by Armenian forces, the photographic and video evidence available from the Azerbaijani side does not yet allow for conclusive analysis of its specific targets, nor whether the rocket warheads contained cluster munitions,” added the watchdog.