Pope Francis delivered his traditional Easter message Urbi et Orbi, “to the city and to the world,” on Easter Sunday from St Peter’s Basilica. The message is traditionally used to review global problems and appeal for peace. In this year’s message, ‘Risen Christ is hope that does not disappoint’, Pope Francis spoke about hope and solidarity during the pandemic. He urged faster distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and called armed conflict and military spending during a pandemic “scandalous”. Drawing attention to conflicts in Myanmar, Yemen, Tigray and Mozambique, he also prayed for the safe return home of prisoners of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Pope Francis said that he realised many Christians were still persecuted and called for all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide to be lifted.
Commenting on the Pope’s prayer, The Primate of the Armenian Church in the UK said “it is a positive sign that high level religious leaders are addressing this issue. I know that His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians has written to Church leaders, including His Holiness, Pope Francis and His Grace The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, to draw their attention to the dire situation of the prisoners of war. We are thankful for the action taken by religious leaders in remembering the Armenian people in their prayers and by seeking assistance from international organisations.
However, Azerbaijan continues to hold prisoners of war as hostages even ignoring the plea of Church leaders and despite the Trilateral agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on 9th November 2020, which states that “The Parties shall exchange prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons, and dead bodies.”
While Armenia has returned all Azeri prisoners of war, Azerbaijan still holds over 200 Armenian prisoners of war, including several servicemen and civilians captured after the end of the war. Moreover, many international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern at the abuse of Armenian prisoners of war in custody and have urged the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure their release without further delay. Leaders across Europe have called for immediate action, with a statement signed by 150 public and political figures in France, and the Belgian Parliament recently passing a resolution calling on Azerbaijan to bring to justice those who committed war crimes.
The European Court of Human Rights has now referred this matter to the Committee of Ministers, as Azerbaijan has failed to comply with the deadlines set by the Court for the submission of information on the Armenian captives. There is also concern about the ongoing psychological trauma of families waiting for their relatives to be returned. A number of families have received confirmation of the torture or killing of their relatives directly to their phones or via social media.
The quote on the trilateral agreement was taken from https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/11/16/a-closer-look-at-the-trilateral-agreement-to-end-war/