By Joshua Kucera
An international court has ordered Armenia and Azerbaijan to “prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred” against one another, and for Azerbaijan to protect Armenian cultural sites on its territory and to ensure the safety of Armenian prisoners who remain in its custody more than a year after the end of last year’s war.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague declined, however, to order the more concrete requests from the respective sides: from Armenia, that Azerbaijan release the prisoners and shut down a racist post-war “military trophy park,” and from Azerbaijan that Armenia hand over all maps of the land mines it has laid on Azerbaijani territory.
The rulings were made in response to twin lawsuits in the court, both filed in September, alleging violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The court is likely to take years to weigh in with a final ruling on the claims, but on December 7 issued its response to each side’s request for provisional measures that the other should take in order to prevent urgent continuing harm.
It is unclear what the practical impact of the provisional measures will be, as neither side acknowledges that it is promoting racial hatred, while Azerbaijan denies that the cultural sites in question are in danger (or sometimes that they are Armenian at all) and that it is abusing the prisoners. There is in effect no enforcement mechanism to ensure that the sides carry out the measures ordered of them.
Both sides presented the rulings as a victory.