L.A. County Board of Supervisors Unanimously Calls for Release of Armenian POWs

ANCA-WR staff and activists with LA County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion introduced by ANCA Western Region-endorsed candidate for re-election, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and seconded by Supervisor Holly Mitchell on Tuesday.

The motion calls for a letter signed by the full Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to the Biden Administration urging for concrete action to address Azerbaijan’s ongoing illegal detention of Armenian hostages.

The motion also calls on the Biden Administration to impose sanctions against Azerbaijani leadership pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on the grounds of Azerbaijan’s illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing of Armenian POWs and hostages, as well as suspending all United States military and economic assistance to Azerbaijan.

Additionally, the motion urges thee leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to move forward on the passage of H. Res. 861 (introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff and supported by Reps. Valadao and Bilirakis), which calls on Azerbaijan to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians. ANCA Western Region staff and other Armenian community organizations attended the hearing to speak in support of the motion, urging for its passage.

This motion was introduced in light of growing concerns about inhumane treatment and conditions for the Armenian hostages held in Azerbaijani detention.

Azerbaijani authorities most recently have arrested and detained three of Artsakh’s former presidents, Artsakh’s former foreign minister David Babayn and former State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, along with Artsakh Parliament Speaker Davit Ishkhanyan.

The ANCA-WR honored Babayan with its Freedom Award in 2022 and hosted a downhill forum with Vardanyan at the start of Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh.

Azerbaijan has also illegally detained civilians, among them the 68-year-old Vagif Khatchatryan, who was arrested at an unlawfully implemented Azerbaijani checkpoint as he was being transported for urgent medical care by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“This is about accountability,” said Supervisor Barger. “We need to hold Azerbaijan accountable for violations of humanitarian law. As leaders of a country that is home to the greatest number of Armenians outside of Armenia itself, we must do what is within our power and use our voice to condemn Azerbaijan’s violations of human rights and urge the return of all Armenian hostages and prisoners of war. We have a moral obligation to do so. I am proud to stand in solidarity with the Armenian community.”

“The conflict between Azerbaijan and the people of Armenia impacts our Armenian community in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Mitchell. “ We must make it clear that these crimes against humanity will not be tolerated by our government. We support the Biden administration in urging the Azerbaijan government to immediately return all Armenian prisoners of war and work toward a solution for lasting peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.”  

“The ANCA Western Region welcomes this motion, which brings further attention to the suffering and hardships endured by the people of Artsakh, and Azerbaijan’s Armenian hostages,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq., Chair of the ANCA Western Region Board of Directors. “Now, more than ever, it is vital that policymakers and community advocates work tirelessly to secure their release, and ensure accountability for Azerbaijan’s numerous violations of humanitarian and international law.”

The ANCA-WR urges the community to take action by urging members of Congress to take urgent and tangible action to end Azerbaijan’s illegal detention of Armenian hostages, and demand accountability for Azerbaijan’s crimes against humanity.

The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.