“According to various reports, it is very likely that some of these 40 people have also been killed,” Artak Beglarian, Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, told a news conference. “The information will be updated.”
Beglarian said he hopes that most of these missing persons are held captive in Azerbaijan or are hiding in areas seized by the Azerbaijani army during the war and will return home soon.
Azerbaijan has so far confirmed the deaths of two Karabakh Armenians held in Azerbaijani captivity. Both elderly civilians lived in Karabakh villages currently controlled by Baku.
The ceasefire agreement which took effect on November 10 requires the warring sides to release all prisoners of war and civilians held by them. Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged the first groups of such prisoners on December 14. They included 14 ethnic Armenian civilians.
Echoing statements by Armenian officials, Beglarian claimed that Baku is still holding dozens of other prisoners and refusing to acknowledge this fact which he said is corroborated by amateur videos posted on Azerbaijani social media accounts.
Beglarian said the missing persons do not include 21 other Karabakh residents who his office believes were captured and killed by Azerbaijani forces. The bodies of the vast majority of these victims have already returned by Azerbaijani authorities or recovered otherwise, he added.
Earlier this month, Britain’s The Guardian daily examined gruesome videos that show men in Azerbaijani army uniforms beheading two elderly men recognized by their Karabakh Armenian relatives and neighbors.
“The ethnic Armenian men were non-combatants, people in their respective villages said,” the paper wrote on December 15.
“The villagers’ testimony in interviews with the Guardian corroborates identifications by a human rights ombudsman for the Armenian-backed local government [Artak Beglarian] and two prominent Armenian human rights lawyers preparing a criminal case relating to the murders,” it said.