Tessa Hofmann, a well-known German scholar of Armenian and Genocide studies, PhD, research scholar at the Free University of Berlin, on April 11 gave an interview to the Orbeli Analytical Research Center about the severe humanitarian situation in Artsakh caused by the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the ultimate goal of the genocidal policy of the Azerbaijani authorities, and about the possibilities of settlement of the problem within the framework of international law.
Orberli: Since December 12, 2022, a severe humanitarian crisis has been created in Artsakh as a result of Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which is the only road of life connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the whole world. Artsakh President declared the country a “disaster zone”. 120.000 innocent civilians are struggling to survive in the absence of food, medicine and other vital supplies. Human deaths are recorded as a consequence of the blockade. How would you characterize this policy of Azerbaijan?
Hofmann: The blockade of the only land route connecting the Republic of Armenia with the Republic of Artsakh, which has now lasted eight months, is contrary to international law in several respects. First and foremost, it violates the trilateral ceasefire agreement of November 9, 2020, which provides for access to Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Russian peacekeepers, the so-called Lachin Corridor. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had already ordered Azerbaijan to immediately lift the blockade on 22 February 2023. However, Azerbaijan did not comply with this order, nor with similar appeals by the European Parliament or individual states. The authoritarian Aliyev regime in Baku can be sure that no sanctions will be imposed because of its importance in the energy sector as a “reliable energy supplier” (Ursula von der Leyen). The lack of consequences of the ICJ decision also illustrates the helplessness of international jurisdiction. The situation is similar with the principle of international responsibility to protect, introduced in 2005, which is limited to purely peaceful means of influence or intervention.
To make matters worse, the blockade is taking place in the shadow of the Ukraine War, and international attention is thus very limited or one-sidedly focused. This is particularly true of Germany. Appeals by local human rights organizations to the foreign minister about the blockade of Artsakh have so far gone unanswered. But Germany in particular is obliged, due to its military alliance with Turkey in the First World War, not to sit idly by and watch Armenians being exterminated once again.
Orbeli: What do you think, can these actions of Baku be observed within the framework of Article 2, Clause C (Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide?
Hofmann: The blockade of the Artsakh region, inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Armenians, has had existentially threatening consequences for all of the approximately 120,000 inhabitants, but especially for very young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the chronically ill. The blockade has not only cut off the supply of food, medicine and fuel. It has also driven numerous inhabitants to economic ruin, especially since Azerbaijan has repeatedly interrupted the supply of gas and electricity from Armenia to Artsakh, often for weeks at a time.