Sides have to return bodies to opposite side without any ‘ifs’

Thu 21 Oct 2010 03:27 GMT | 07:27 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Bernhard Clasen, former co-chair of the International Work Group on release of captives and search of missing people in Karabakh.

Periodical armed clashes, killing and wounding people from both sides, have recently been observed in the area of Karabakh confrontation. What can you say about it?

Let me first express my condolences to all those who have recently lost a close man. A human life is the highest value. No one can bring back a loved man to a mother, a wife or a daughter. I think the issues of peace and war are too important for only politicians to deal with them. I think people’s diplomacy may play an important role in averting violence and probably in new war too. The issue here is not whether this is people’s diplomacy or the diplomacy of politicians. Efforts of everyone, including politicians and people’s diplomats are requires. I therefore appreciate the actions of Arzu Abdullayeva and Avaz Hasanov who have repeatedly been in the Armenian side of the conflict and who established contacts with Armenian students, activists, and teachers. I think the state must support such people in their peacekeeping activity.

How you, as a specialist, can explain the recently intensified capturing of Azerbaijani and Armenian servicemen? Do you believe in the official versions that this occurs at the decision of soldiers themselves, who cannot bear problems in the army?

Yes, I think this occurs due to violence in the army. I very much appreciate the work of soldiers’ mothers in Russia. Soldiers’ mothers from Saint Petersburg, for example, visited Russian servicemen in South Ossetia and other places. And they helped soldiers if they learned that they are treated inhumanely. In Azerbaijan it is necessary to encourage access of activists of nongovernmental Azerbaijani organizations to places of dislocation of troops to see how they are treated.

The Armenian military, detained in Azerbaijan as he attempted to commit diversion on September 11, has recently committed suicide. However, Armenians say that this is a murder. What is necessary to be done to ensure transparency in investigating such incidents?

It is necessary to allow independent experts checking all facts related to this tragedy. I think it is possible to find neutral experts who could deal with this issue and who enjoy the trust of both Armenian and Azerbaijani sides.

How would you comment on the fact that Armenians have rejected to give back the bodies of two Azerbaijani soldiers for already a month?

Both sides are obliged to return the bodies of deceased soldiers. Under the additional protocol to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, related to protection of victims of international armed conflicts (Protocol 1) Geneva, 8 June 1977, the sides are obliged to assist in “return of remnants and personal property of those who died to the homeland at the request of this country, or, if the country does not object, at the request of close relatives of the deceased”… “as far as circumstances in relations between the opposite parties allow” (article 32).

The full protocol in Russia is available at

Therefore, no exchange can be implied. The parties have to give back the body to the opposite side without any ‘ifs’.

What do you think of prospects of the Karabakh conflict settlement? How soon may it happen?

I often visit the region and they often told me the resolution will be ‘soon’. For me resolution is not a single-time action, like the signing of a contract. It is rather a process. Germans and French also did not reconcile within a day. The fact that today we, Germans, are friends with France, that is we maintain friendly contacts, is the result of efforts, as well as policy of people’s diplomacy.

There were many programs of exchange between German and French schools. And today, I assure you, there is no hatred between us anymore.

Certainly, the situation around Nagorno Karabakh cannot be compared to war the fascist Germany launched at that time. But the efforts of France and Germany to establish normal relations after war can serve an example in those places where hatred and instability are ruling. Therefore, most depends on civil society in Azerbaijan and Armenia, when relations are normalized.

Bernhard Clasen is former co-chair of the International Work Group on release of captives and search of missing people in Karabakh area, functioning until 2007.




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