WASHINGTON – The Republic of Artsakh filed a lawsuit on behalf of its civilian population against multi-billion-dollar defense contractor, L3Harris Technologies, Inc. (“L3 Harris”), in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
Chicago firm Kerkonian Dajani LLC brought the suit alleging that L3Harris aided and abetted war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, extrajudicial killings, and torture committed by Turkey and Azerbaijan against the civilian population in Artsakh. Other plaintiffs named in the suit are individuals who either were severely injured or are the next-of-kin of civilians killed by shelling and drone strikes.
The complaint alleges that, since 2019, L3Harris has sold electro-optical/infra-red sensors to Turkey for its Bayraktar TB-2 drones and continued to do so with the knowledge that Turkey and Azerbaijan would use them to commit crimes against civilians. Recent reports indicate that Turkey and Azerbaijan use Bayraktar TB-2 drones in their attacks on Armenian civilians.
According to the lawsuit, Azerbaijan and Turkey’s drones have also targeted civilian infrastructure, including residential areas, schools, churches, and hospitals in a total of 120 civilian settlements. The lawsuit also details Turkey’s role in transporting rebel and jihadist mercenary groups from Syria to Azerbaijan and the use of internationally banned cluster munitions against civilians.
On October 5, 2020, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Canada, where L3Harris operates a subsidiary corporation, halted all exports of certain electro-optical/infra-red sensors to Turkey due to reports as to their use by Azerbaijan and Turkey in the Artsakh war. The United States, where L3Harris has its headquarters, does not have such a ban in place.
The lawsuit was filed in part under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows claims by non-citizens for violations of international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against U.S. corporations. Plaintiff Republic of Artsakh is a small state populated by ethnic Armenians that declared its independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It is located between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.