Response to the book of Tomasz Lech Buczek

by Fuad Chiragov 

Though the Second Karabakh War ended last year, the information war still continues. The proliferation and viral spread of fake news, false information presented as factual are nothing new either in the context of the Second Karabakh War or in general for the world. During and after the Second Karabakh War, occasionally media coverage of very prominent institutions, individuals and organizations, the majority of which claim to stand impartial and objective about the now-past Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, intentionally distorted, twisted and manipulated legal and historical facts on the ground which have led to the exclusion and marginalization of the Azerbaijani side. For many decades, the strong and influential Armenian lobby in different countries have spent enormous time, energy and financial resources to advocate their cause and to recruit journalists, scholars and academicians. On the one hand, they have exploited their “victimhood” among the western leftist and liberal intellectual circles based on the claims on so-called genocide which paved their way for justification of all crimes such as mass atrocities, deportation of around millions of people and occupation. On the hand, the Armenian lobby exploited the implicit or latent Christian solidarity in different Western countries.

Interestingly, besides “professionally fabricated” tools in the form of news, reports, books and other materials, we can see mass proliferation of very cheap, unprofessional and biased materials during this information war such as 40 page-book “Azerbaijani war crimes against Armenians” by Tomasz Lech Buczek, a self-proclaimed politician and lawyer. In the cover page, the author claims that the book is based on confirmed sources. And there comes first questions, who or which institution confirmed that the references of the book are reliable sources; when the trustworthy of the references of the book was confirmed; and how the authenticity of the sources was checked. Had the author or his sponsors ever read once a single peer-review article would know probably that even the best professors in their writings do not make such unequivocal statements about their writings. After this unprofessional and barefaced statement in the cover page, throughout the text you do not find any single attempt of cross-check of the sources. Contrary, you will find one-sided, unchecked and bold allegations and all materials which are actively exploited by the Armenian propaganda machine. It is cheap because the author did not even attempt to invest any intellectual energy to present the allegations more sophisticatedly. Even some Armenian authors, in order to look a bit balanced and impartial, put enormous efforts while twisting and manipulating legal and historical facts on the ground. It seems that Mr. Buczek tries to be more Armenian than Armenian themselves. Mr. Buczek claims that he is a politician and lawyer, while googling his name on the internet did not produce any results with regard to which academic or professional credentials enable him to write a report on this topic. Nor we find anything about his political or public life in Poland. What you find all internet links related to his activity is misinformation against Azerbaijan.

In the cover page of the publication, the author also dedicates his book to “all prisoners of war (POWs) imprisoned by Azerbaijan”. Azerbaijan and Armenia already exchanged all military personal and civilians who had become POW till the November 9, 2020 tripartite statement. Following the tripartite statement, Azerbaijan returned the 44 Armenian POWs and Armenia returned the 12 Azerbaijani POWs. The remaining several dozens of the Armenian prisoners on the hand of Azerbaijan were arrested by the security forces of Azerbaijan after the November 9, 2020 tripartite statement. These people were brought from Shirak province of Armenia on November 26, who killed five military servicemen of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and one civilian personnel member of an Azerbaijani mobile telecommunication company. This attempt of the Armenian military should be considered as a sabotage and violation of the tripartite statement and the mentioned captives can not be considered POWs but terrorists.

Those who speak about “genocide”, “massacre of civilians” or “indiscriminate shelling against civilians” before constructing any arguments about the Second Karabakh War must take a glance at these numbers and other facts. The 44-day war caused the deaths of 60 Armenian civilians and 100 Azerbaijani civilians according to the official reports of the both sides. Also during the military operations 416 civilians from the Azerbaijani side and 165 civilians from the Armenian side were injured. These numbers as well as the other multiple sources from the ground reported that during the active phase of military operations Azerbaijan was intentionally doing its best not to target the civilian objects in order to minimize the casualties among civilians. It should be underlined that as Amnesty International and other sources clearly indicated that the Armenian side intentionally located “military barracks and other installations which may be lawfully targeted in Stepanakert’s [Khankendi] city center, in the midst of residential buildings and shops, putting civilians at risk.” The report of Amnesty International and other sources that Khankendi the regional center of the occupation regime in the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan “contained military and dual-purpose infrastructure in the midst of densely populated civilian residential buildings, civilian infrastructure and businesses”, which is very good proof that during the military operations Azerbaijan did target only lawful military targets and complied the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL). In the interview of the Spanish journalist Pablo Gonzales who worked for the Spanish news agency EFE, the Basque newspaper Gara, Voice of America, several Polish publications and Latin American television and who was reporting about the war from the Armenian side said that the Azerbaijanis tried to strike at specific targets - for example, air defense systems. “When the city was bombed, they deliberately did not touch civilian objects, including hotels and places with a large concentration of civilians. They did not even shoot at “the presidential palace”, although it was very easy to get into it if one wanted to - the building was clearly visible.”

During the whole active military operations, Amnesty International documented only nine strikes carried out by Azerbaijani forces on towns and villages in Nagorno-Karabakh which were controlled by Armenia and one in Armenia, which killed a total of 11 civilians while the Armenian side reported death of 52 civilians. It should be underlined that only one target that was destroyed within the internationally recognized territory of Armenia that was a solely military target and far from any residential and civilian area. On October 14, 2020, Azerbaijan destroyed a ballistic missile system and a rocket system in Armenia that were being used to target civilian areas in Azerbaijan. The systems were deployed in areas of Armenia bordering the Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan that was then under occupation. Hereby, it should be underlined that all military operations were conducted within the occupied and internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan against the occupation forces of the Defense Ministry of the Republic Armenia and all targets of the Azerbaijani army were limited the conflict zone. Azerbaijan did not hit any civilian or military target except the aforementioned ballistic missile system on the internationally recognized territory of Armenia.

On the other hand, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented eight strikes carried out by Armenian forces on towns and villages in Azerbaijan that killed civilians. These consisted of five strikes in Ganja which 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) away from the conflict zone in the wee-morning hours, which killed 33 civilians, three strikes in Barda, which killed 29, one strike in Gashalti (near Naftalan), which killed five, and one strike in Qarayusufli, which killed five. The strikes in Barda and Qarayusufli involved the use of internationally banned cluster munitions, and the deadliest strikes on Ganja involved the use of R-17 ballistic missiles, which are more often called SCUD-Bs, their NATO reporting name. Human Rights Watch in its report stated that Armenian military forces carried out unlawfully indiscriminate rocket and missile strikes on Azerbaijan during the hostilities from September to November 2020.

Amnesty International said that the Armenian forces employed ballistic missiles, and unguided artillery and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). Amnesty International also underlined that the presence of the possible military objectives does not justify the use of a massive and imprecise weapon like the SCUD-B in a populated area. “It is extremely inaccurate, and has a Circular Error Probable (CEP)—the distance within which half of a certain type of weapon are expected to land from their intended target—of approximately 1000 meters, far worse than even Grad rockets or most artillery. Weapons such as the SCUD-B, meaning inaccurate explosive weapons with wide area effects (a conventional SCUD-B warhead contains over 500 kg of high explosive, which can throw fragments that cause deaths and injuries up to 1000 meters away) must never be used in populated civilian areas, such as residential neighborhoods. The likelihood of causing level of harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects is unacceptably high, making such use impermissible under the laws of war.”

One of the often repeated groundless allegations against Azerbaijan is that Baku invited foreign mercenaries to fight against Armenia during the Second Karabakh War. These kind of allegations was voiced before as well. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in his numerous interviews to leading international news broadcast and his phone conversation with French President Macron demanded to deliver proofs about the involvement of Syrian mercenaries. After the hostilities on the battleground there have not been found a body or remnants of a single killed mercenary among thousands of bodies of military servicemen from both sides. On the other, during the military operations, the Azerbaijani soldiers captured dozens of fighters and mercenaries of the Armenian origins from Middle East, Europe and America or collected documents from the killed combatants. Azerbaijan has 100,000 soldiers in the regular Azerbaijani army, not counting the reservists and did not even announce mobilization. Furthermore, in the recent decades Azerbaijan has spent billions of dollars for building an army. And the logical question comes up, what several dozens of undisciplined units of any mercenaries could change on the battleground.

It should be specifically underlined that the Azerbaijani army intentionally did not enter the areas in Karabakh with densely populated and agreed the Russian peacekeepers to come to those areas for the security of the Armenian civilians. Azerbaijan had all military advantages and capacity to enter those areas but did not do so in order to escape any unintended human casualties among civilians. In other words, during the military operations Azerbaijan limited its conducts not only within its internationally recognized territories but also narrowed its military operations only to those areas where historically the Azerbaijani were in majority.

Taking into account all what is said above it is hypocrisy to accuse Azerbaijan on war crimes and genocide while closing blind eyes to the crimes of other side. Before making such accusations one should carefully study the statements of current and past leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in his interview to Thomas de Wall reviled the Armenian policy of deliberate targeting civilians for political ends. In his interview Serzh Sargsyan said that “before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We needed to put a stop to all that. And that’s what happened.” In his memoirs Markar Melkonian, brother of famous Armenian volunteer commander Monte Melkonian who was considered a terrorist by the U.S. also confirmed the deliberate assault on the civilian population. In fact, the confession of the former Armenian leader is enough to qualify the events in Khojaly not just crime against humanity but genocide according to international law.

Fuad Chiragov, Head of Department, Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), special for News.Az

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