In a letter addressed to the head of the UN, the Azerbaijani diplomat wrote: “By continuing to place mines and refusing to share accurate and comprehensive information about all the minefields in the formerly occupied territories of Azerbaijan, Armenia deliberately targets human lives and attempts to impede post – conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts and the safe return of the internally displaced persons to their homes. As a result, over the past two years of the post-conflict period, more than 260 Azerbaijani civilians and military personnel were killed or injured by mine explosions.
These actions of Armenia constitute a flagrant violation of international law and entail its responsibility. Armenia must cease and desist from mine terrorism, redress the harm caused by its internationally wrongful acts, provide full reparations for the injured and offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition.
In order to save lives and ensure peace and development in the region, it is also fundamentally important to increase international support for further strengthening and enhancing national mine action efforts in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is one of the countries in the world most contaminated with landmines/explosive remnants of war. Throughout the conflict, Armenia has indiscriminately planted hundreds of thousands of mines and other explosive devices in the formerly occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
The present report sheds light on Armenia’s ongoing deployment of landmines in the territory of Azerbaijan. Thus, anti-personnel landmines recently found during demining operations in the Kalbajar and Lachin districts of Azerbaijan were produced in Armenia in 2021 and, consequently, were planted after the signing of the trilateral statement on 10 November 2020 that announced an end to all military activities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and obliged Armenia to withdraw its troops from the territory of Azerbaijan.
The ongoing placement of landmines attests to the continuation of the aggressive policy of Armenia.
These actions of Armenia further aggravate the humanitarian threat that landmines pose to civilians, as they are directed at impeding the realization of large – scale rehabilitation and reconstruction works in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and preventing the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons from returning to their homes in safety and dignity after almost 30 years of occupation and ethnic cleansing.
This, along with Armenia’s refusal to cooperate in locating the landmines it planted during the unlawful occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan, constitutes a war crime, as the targets of this policy and conduct are civilians, and entails liability under international law.
The increasing number of mine victims creates a humanitarian urgency that requires the utmost attention and immediate action.
While the Government of Azerbaijan is engaged in large-scale humanitarian demining operations, new facts confirm that Armenia continues to deploy landmines on the territory of Azerbaijan.
During humanitarian demining operations, vast minefields planted with PMN-E anti-personnel mines, produced in Armenia in 2021, that is, after the signing of the trilateral statement, were found in the eastern parts of the Kalbajar and Lachin districts of Azerbaijan in August 2022.
According to the ongoing non-technical and technical surveys in the territories, there are minefields with an estimated 40,000 landmines planted throughout a 93 -km area covering the Gamishdaghi and Saribaba mountains.
In addition, recently planted PMN-E anti-personnel landmines produced in Armenia were found also in the Dashkasan district of Azerbaijan.
The total number of PMN-E type landmines found in Dashkasan, Kalbajar and Lachin between 16 August and 6 October 2022 amounts to 3,166, of which 1,671 were found in Lachin, 935 in Kalbajar and 560 in Dashkasan. While the majority of these landmines are of PMN-E type, among the detected and neutralized landmines were also those of PMN-2, E-001 M and TM-62 types.
Apart from this, on 3 October 2022, trap mines installed by Armenian forces and consisting of PMN-E landmines with hand grenades under them activated by trap wire were found in houses and courtyards in the Zabukh and Sus villages of the Lachin district of Azerbaijan.
It should be noted that, in accordance with paragraph 6 of the trilateral statement, the town of Lachin and the villages of Zabukh and Sus were returned to Azerbaijan on 26 August 2022. No active military operations were conducted in these areas. However, Armenia installed trap mines there during the withdrawal of its forces and illegal settlers with the sole purpose of targeting the returning Azerbaijani civilians.
The producer of the majority of landmines and explosive ordnance found in the territories of Azerbaijan is the Armenian company Hayk-Meg LLC, established in 1991. The company, which plays an important role in the military-industrial sphere of Armenia, is based in the capital city of Iravan. PMN-E, PMN-2, POMZ-2, OZM-72, MON-50 and PFM-1 anti-personnel mines manufactured by the company were displayed at the ArmHiTec -2016 defence industry exhibition, held in Armenia in 2016.
Indiscriminate use of mines by Armenia continues to cause loss of life and suffering among civilians. The humanitarian threat caused by mines creates a humanitarian urgency and requires utmost attention and immediate action.
The number of mine victims in the last 30 years stands at 3,336 (including 357 children and 38 women). A total of 131 incidents involved cluster munitions. Since the signing of the trilateral statement, 257 military servicemen and civilians (as at 3 October 2022) have become mine victims (44 killed and 213 wounded, including 9 children, 1 woman and 3 media representatives). The situation is aggravated by mines indiscriminately planted beyond the areas covered by the minefield records provided by Armenia.
New cases of trap mines left by Armenian forces in residential areas (houses) in the Lachin district in August 2022 leave no doubt that the aim was to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible.
Under international pressure, Armenia released some pre-2020 minefield records that contain information about 390,709 anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines as well as other explosive devices. These records constitute 5 per cent of all the liberated areas and less than a third of confirmed high threat areas reflected in the mine action assessment report on Azerbaijan (December 2020) prepared by the Mine Action Service and the United Nations Development Programme. However, only some 25 per cent of the minefield records provided by Armenia have proved to be reliable. It follows that only around 1.25 per cent of the liberated territory has minefield records with reliable data.
The Prime Minister of Armenia publicly boasted that the information (at the time of the statement, Armenia had released about 200,000 landmines) shared with Azerbaijan was only a “tiny portion” of landmines planted by Armenia. Despite that, Armenia demonstrates no interest in releasing the information about all the minefields and in cooperating to locate landmines that it planted without proper documentation. Efforts by a European Union-appointed landmine expert to facilitate the further release by Armenia of landmine information have not yielded any meaningful result.
Ongoing landmine deployment by Armenia on the territory of Azerbaijan is contrary to Armenia’s international obligations, including those stipulated under the trilateral statement. Armenia did not completely withdraw its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan and did not cease military activities against Azerbaijan. Instead, it continues to build fortifications and carry out military engineering works on the territory of Azerbaijan, including the large-scale deployment of landmines.
These activities constitute a flagrant breach of international law, in particular the violation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and international humanitarian law, for which Armenia bears responsibility.
Such acts of Armenia neither serve stability nor advance peace and cooperation in the region.”
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