On August 8th, President of the Republic of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan sent an urgent appeal to the international community to take urgent measures to prevent the genocide of the Artsakh people and to lift the siege, the Presidential Office stated.
The message is presented below:
Esteemed members of the international community,
I, Arayik Harutyunyan, the President of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), bring forth this urgent appeal to draw your attention to the fact that this very moment, the people of the Republic of Artsakh find themselves in the midst of a harrowing genocide, confronted with an imminent threat to their very existence and the homeland they hold dear.
For the purpose of controlling the only road connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the outside world, passing through the Lachin Corridor, the Azerbaijanи authorities planned and initiated a show that started on December 12, 2022, under the guise of an “environmental” protest. In reality, this was just a prelude to the crime of genocide, which gained an official and systemic nature with the illegal establishment of an Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin Corridor on April 23, 2023. On June 15, Azerbaijan completely sealed off the road passing through the Lachin Corridor, besieging the 120-thousand population of the Republic of Artsakh. For almost eight months now, the population of Artsakh has been deprived of the opportunity for unimpeded and two-way movement along the Lachin Corridor. For about two months now, there were no supplies of food, medicines and other essential goods, previously carried out by the Russian peacekeeping forces and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Azerbaijan’s actions not only violate universal legal norms but also specific international legal acts regarding the Lachin Corridor, including paragraph 6 of the Trilateral Statement of November 9, 2020, legally binding decisions of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights requiring the unblocking the Lachin Corridor.
The blockade of the Lachin Corridor is not an isolated incident; it should be regarded as part of a planned, large-scale and coordinated policy by Azerbaijan aimed at the destruction of the people of Artsakh as a whole. The blockade of Artsakh is a direct continuation of the military aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan in 2020, with the direct involvement of Turkey and terrorist organizations from the Middle East. Azerbaijan has consistently pursued a policy of forcibly suppressing the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, accompanying its actions with the use of force and widespread violations of human rights. The ultimate goal of this policy is the expulsion of the people of Artsakh and closing the issue of the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh.
It is in this context that Azerbaijan’s encroachments on the sovereignty of Artsakh must be considered, since the presence of a sovereign state with international legal subjectivity is a crucial condition and means for preserving the people of Artsakh and their traditions, values, culture, as well as their natural development.
More than two years after the trilateral ceasefire statement, and having failed to achieve its criminal goal of ethnic cleansing of Artsakh through military means, Azerbaijan continues making consistent attempts to achieve its nefarious objectives еmploying non-violent yet equally inhumane methods. The establishment of an illegal checkpoint in the Lachin Corridor, with its evident criminal intent to deliberately restrict and eventually halt humanitarian cargo shipments, which are crucial for sustaining the normal livelihood of the people of Artsakh, has become a new weapon in Azerbaijan’s arsenal against the people of Artsakh. A direct victim of this illegally established checkpoint was Vagif Khachatryan, a citizen of the Republic of Artsakh, who was abducted by Azerbaijani military personnel in violation of international humanitarian law while traveling under the escort of the ICRC.
The Azerbaijani authorities, attempting to conceal their genocidal intentions, come up with false alternatives, supposedly aimed at mitigating the humanitarian catastrophe they have themselves created. The current critical situation, which Artsakh can overcome only with international humanitarian and political support, is a direct consequence of Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor and the factual siege of the people of Artsakh. Azerbaijan is thus trying to create the illusion that Artsakh is unsustainable and dependent on external assistance. The imposed offer of so-called assistance by the Azerbaijani authorities is an attempt to subjugate Artsakh and its people.
But make no mistake: the offer to deliver humanitarian cargo to Artsakh from Azerbaijan is yet another means of realizing Azerbaijan’s criminal agenda, which will lead to imposing its own will, violating the human dignity and other criminal consequences of subjugating the people of Artsakh to Azerbaijan. Through these actions, Azerbaijan aims to hinder the normal development of Artsakh and the improvement of the people’s living standards.
The Azerbaijani authorities do not conceal their goal of expelling the Armenian population of Artsakh from their homeland. Accordingly, by presenting a so-called concept of conflict resolution, along with a package of proposals, Azerbaijan is attempting to hide this new way of realizing their genocidal intention under the cover of negotiations.
The fabricated agenda of dialogue between Stepanakert and Baku promoted by the Azerbaijani authorities is, in fact, an attempt to legitimize Azerbaijan’s criminal actions. Any calls encouraging Artsakh’s participation in such dialogue without international mediators and effective guarantees is perceived as support for the implementation of Azerbaijan’s genocidal policy. Artsakh’s participation in any such talks under these conditions would be tantamount to recognizing and legitimizing Azerbaijan’s veiled program of genocide.
For the effectiveness and legitimacy of negotiations, it is necessary to ensure at the very least that the parties adhere to the norms of international law. At the same time, both proposals aimed at resolving the conflict itself and the potential consequences of their implementation should align with the principles of international law and universal human values. However, all of this continues to be violated by Azerbaijan with persistence and impunity.
Artsakh, in turn, has always advocated for the start of meaningful and substantive negotiations, based on universal principles of justice, dignity and equality.
Our unwavering stance is that for negotiations to take place, first of all, it is necessary to ensure favorable and equitable conditions. Subsequently, an international mechanism with a relevant international mandate should be established to define the criteria for the negotiation process. These criteria should be based on norms of international law and international practice. Otherwise, proposals to engage in negotiations with a party that remains committed to its criminal intention of destroying the other party by all means, be it military, economic or political, cannot be a subject of discussion.
Decisions of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, periodic appeals and statements from international institutions, individual states and organizations all universally acknowledge the fact of the illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor. They underline the necessity of restoring free movement through the corridor. However, no effective and concrete steps are being taken in this direction. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s deliberate actions to create unbearable living conditions in Artsakh with the ultimate goal of physically destroying the people of Artsakh constitutes nothing less than a crime of genocide, composed of criminal intention and explicit actions. Leading international experts also concur with this assessment. For instance, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, highlighted this in his recent comprehensive report. Preventing the crime of genocide is a universal obligation of states, and each state must actively and consistently exert efforts to prevent such a crime from occurring.
In the current circumstances, displaying inaction or indifference amounts to nothing less than condoning the crime of genocide. The international community is obligated to take effective individual and collective measures to prevent Azerbaijan’s attempt to inscribe another page of genocide into the annals of history.
In line with the above, I earnestly call upon international actors, within the scope of their commitments, to take decisive and effective measures to prevent the crime of genocide against the people of Artsakh. Specifically, I address:
to the Republic of Armenia
- In order to adopt a resolution involving urgent and specific actions, I urge for the immediate presentation of the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Azerbaijan’s blockage of the Lachin Corridor and the unlawful blockade of Artsakh, which has escalated into the crime of genocide, to the discussion of the United Nations Security Council;
- I call for intensified efforts to actively raise awareness of the issue of the unlawful blockade of the Lachin Corridor and Artsakh through information, advocacy and other platforms, as well as by informing the international community;
- I call to engage with international partners to discuss and impose sanctions against Azerbaijan in order to halt its international crimes.
- At the same time, I strongly urge the authorities of Armenia, public figures and political leaders to exercise caution in their public statements and assessments of the situation: no statement or action should cast doubt on the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination or contribute to further aggressive actions by Azerbaijan;
to the Armenian Diaspora
- I urge you to consolidate efforts with the aim of drawing the attention of authorities and the public in the countries of your residence to the international crimes committed in Artsakh, and to demand immediate and effective measures to stop them;
- from our compatriots in the Diaspora, we expect actions in the following directions:
- ensure that your governments strongly condemn and take specific measures to increase pressure on Azerbaijan to lift the blockade of Artsakh;
- ensure that your governments, human rights organizations, media outlets and other actors provide direct legal and political assessments of Azerbaijan’s crimes against Artsakh;
- ensure that your governments consider and impose sanctions against Azerbaijan to halt its international crimes;
To the Russian Federation
- Emphasizing the importance of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Artsakh, I strongly urge the intensification of efforts for the immediate lifting of the unlawful blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and the restoration of the functioning of the Lachin Corridor, as established by the Trilateral Statement of November 9, 2020;
To OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – the Russian Federation, the United States of America and the French Republic
- I strongly urge you, both as counties directly involved in the conflict resolution process and as UN Security Council member states, to fulfill your primary obligation by taking effective measures for the immediate cessation of the illegal blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and the restoration of uninterrupted functioning of the Lachin corridor;
- I call upon the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs countries to exert individual and joint efforts to establish a robust negotiation format endowed with an appropriate international mandate, which would ensure that the negotiation process, its criteria and final outcomes are in line with international law and universal human values;
- I hope that the co-chairing countries will demonstrate consistency in pursuing a peaceful and comprehensive settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict and will actively work towards reactivating the negotiation mechanism empowered with an international mandate for the resolution of the conflict;
To UN Security Council members states
- I urge an immediate convening of a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the genocide and humanitarian catastrophe caused by the blockade of Artsakh. Furthermore, I call for the adoption of a UNSC resolution obligating Azerbaijan to promptly unblock the Lachin Corridor and restore its functioning in accordance with the decision of the International Court of Justice dated February 22, 2023;
- I also remind that preventing genocide is not only an erga omnes obligation but also a collective responsibility of the international community;
To the Secretary-General of the United Nations
- I urge you to demonstrate moral and political responsibility and leadership by engaging the entire UN system to prevent further international crimes committed by Azerbaijan in Artsakh;
- I urge the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and other relevant entities to present factual and legal information to the United Nations Security Council regarding the international crimes committed against the Republic of Artsakh;
- I propose making a meaningful contribution to the process of forming a conflict resolution mechanism between Artsakh and Azerbaijan by using your institution of good offices;
To the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide
- I urge you to activate the early warning mechanism within your mandate, thereby presenting the crisis situation that has emerged in the Republic of Artsakh to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and through him, to the Security Council;
- I urge you to take effective measures to dispatch a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Artsakh to assess the consequences of international crimes committed by Azerbaijan through the illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor;
To the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other UN structures responsible for the protection of human rights
- I urge you, within the scope of your mandates, to provide a legal assessment of the crimes committed by Azerbaijan against the people of Artsakh, document the widespread violations of human rights and provide member states of the United Nations Security Council and other international entities with detailed factual and legal information about the escalating human rights crisis in Artsakh;
To the International Committee of the Red Cross, as the sole international organization present in the Republic of Artsakh and having the appropriate international mandate
- I urge you to provide all actors of the international community and, in particular, the UN Security Council member states, with detailed factual and legal information about the situation in Artsakh and the actions of Azerbaijan, which grossly violate norms of international humanitarian law;
To the Council of Europe
- I urge you to take effective and decisive measures to ensure the immediate implementation of the binding ruling issued by the European Court of Human Rights on December 21, 2022;
- I strongly call for measures to be taken regarding the flagrant and severe violation by Azerbaijan of the “three pillars” of the Council of Europe, including a potential exclusion of this member state from the organization;
To the European Union
- I urge the utilization of available resources and tools within the European Union, including the imposition of sanctions, to intensify pressure on Azerbaijan to lift the blockade of Artsakh and end its widespread human rights violations;
- I urge you to remain faithful to the values and principles proclaimed by the European Union, refraining in particular from prioritizing energy partnership with Azerbaijan over human rights and freedoms;
To International Human Rights Organizations and Other International Actors
- I urge you to actively engage in campaigns to raise awareness about the massive and systematic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh, including by providing clear legal descriptions and demanding that governments and international organizations take appropriate preventive measures;
To Representatives of the Media
- Acknowledging the indispensable role of independent media in increasing awareness about mass crimes and their prevention, I urge you to remain true to your mission and break the unacceptable silence by providing the international community with objective information about the mass crimes taking place in Artsakh, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of injustice and impunity.
Esteemed representatives of the international community,
As I conclude this message of alarm, I implore you not to forget that Artsakh is currently the only territory in the world under a complete siege, where even the international community lacks access. Do you not question Azerbaijan’s intent to subject the peaceful population of Artsakh to total isolation? Does it not concern you that, from a human rights perspective, Artsakh has become not a gray zone but a black hole where all the crimes imaginable by human civilization can occur? Do you not realize that such international impunity and the allowance of another genocide will give rise to new crimes, possibly even against your own peoples?!
Therefore, I implore and demand from all of you to promptly take action and stop this ongoing genocide of the people of Artsakh before it becomes too late.