Rep. Schiff Introduces Resolution Urging Azerbaijan To Release All Prisoners of War and Captured Civilians

Washington, D.C.— Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)  introduced a resolution calling on Azerbaijan to immediately release all prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians currently detained in the years-long attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh.

In September 2020, Azerbaijan launched a military assault on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), resulting in thousands killed, tens of thousands displaced, and the detention of an estimated 200 ethnic Armenian POWs, hostages, and others by Azerbaijan. In a ceasefire statement dated November 9, 2020, all parties agreed to the “exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons.” Three years later, Azerbaijan still has not released all POWs and instead continues to imprison ever more POWs, hostages, and other detained persons. This includes taking additional POWs and hostages during Azerbaijan’s unprovoked, large-scale military attack on Artsakh in September 2023, after systemically starving the people of Artsakh with a 10-month-long blockade.

“Azerbaijan is already guilty of grave atrocities committed during the recent war, and the continued illegal detention of Armenians compounds the problem. Azerbaijan’s treatment of these prisoners, including torture and killings, are heartbreaking and a direct threat to international law and order,” said Rep. Schiff. “My resolution urges the American government and international community to stand up to these gross human rights violations being perpetuated against the Armenian community by the Aliyev regime and return these prisoners back to their families.”

zerbaijan continues to detain at least 55 POWs today, though the true number is unknown and likely much higher, as many are still missing and Azerbaijan provides limited reliable information on the condition and treatment of POWs and captured civilians in its custody. There is widespread credible reporting on the cruel and degrading treatment, torture, extrajudicial killing, and other violations committed against Armenian POWs and detainees in Azerbaijani custody, including from the State Department, Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and others.

Specifically, the resolution will:

  • Call upon Azerbaijan to immediately return all Armenian POWs, hostages, and other detained persons, and provide information on the status of those still be detained and those missing;
  • Call for the implementation of Global Magnitsky sanctions against Azerbaijani officials responsible for abuses against POWs and credible investigations and prosecutions of the perpetrators in these cases;
  • Call for the suspension of U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan and full implementation of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act in light of Azerbaijan’s ongoing violations of human rights;
  • Urge the Secretary of State to engage with Azerbaijani authorities to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations to immediately release and treat humanely all POWs, hostages, and other detained persons; and
  • Urge the Secretary of State to regularly provide substantive updates to Congress on engagement with Azerbaijan on the status of POWs, hostages, and other detained persons.

This resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

Read the full resolution HERE.