Lt. General Hayk Kotanjian

By Dr. Hayk Kotanjian and Dr. Arthur Atanesyan

Azerbaijan’s blockage of the sole route connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh is causing significant hindrance to the delivery of essential supplies, including food and medical resources, to the region inhabited by approximately 120,000 indigenous Armenians, including 30,000 children. The pleas and appeals directed towards Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev by international human rights organizations, urging for the immediate reopening of the Lachin corridor, have yielded no response or impact.

During the recent direct negotiations between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which were endorsed by the EU, the US and Russia, the discussion has centered on the territories of Armenia excluding Karabakh, and those of Azerbaijan encompassing Karabakh. This perspective implies a scenario as if this situation came into existence during the signing of the Alma-Ata Protocols of 1991, which led to the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, the expert community, including our own demonstrations, has consistently shown that the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) in accordance with the USSR legislation in force at that time was already detached from the Azerbaijan SSR prior to the signing of the Alma-Ata Declaration.

On July 6, 2023 the International Court of Justice reaffirmed the necessity of implementing its February 22, 2023 Order which obliged Azerbaijan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.

Armenia has lodged an appeal subsequent to a warning by the previous lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo. Dr. Ocampo, who served as the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from 2003 to 2012, has been a visiting professor at the American Stanford (2002) and Harvard universities (2003), Hebrew University and USC, and a senior fellow at Yale University, Harvard University and New York University.

The expert alert, issued on August 7, 2023, highlighted Azerbaijan’s alleged preparations for a genocide targeting ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The call was made for the U.N. Security Council to present this matter before the global tribunal.

Prof. Arthur Atanesyan

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According to the report, “There is an ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh. The blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.” There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks. Starvation as a method to destroy people was neglected by the entire international community when it was used against Armenians in 1915, Jews and Poles in 1939, Russians in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1941, and Cambodians in 1975/1976. Starvation was also neglected when used in Srebrenica in the winter of 1993/1994. Analyzing the Srebrenica case, the International Court of Justice ruled that “deprivation of food, medical care, shelter or clothing” constitute Genocide within the meaning of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention. State parties of the Genocide Convention assumed the duty to prevent and punish Genocide. The International Court of Justice ruled that state parties should “not wait until the perpetration of Genocide commences,” and “The whole point of the obligation is to prevent or attempt to prevent the occurrence of the act.”

The report stated, “There exists a rational foundation to believe that a genocide is presently taking place.” He further pointed out that under a U.N. convention, genocide encompasses the intentional imposition of circumstances designed to result in the physical obliteration of a particular group. The report further emphasized that the means of this “invisible genocide” is starvation, rather than direct acts like machete assaults or the presence of crematories. Without swift and drastic alteration, the Armenian community in question could face annihilation within a few weeks.

A representative of the Azerbaijani government rejected Ocampo’s report, asserting that it contained unverified allegations and accusations.

Following the teport and the negative reaction of Azerbaijani authorities, Mher Margaryan, Armenia’s representative to the United Nations, formally requested the meeting to address the critical situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The request was made through a letter to the ambassador of the United States, which currently holds the presidency of the Security Council for this month.

In response to an appeal from Armenia, the United Nations Security Council has arranged an urgent session on 16 of August. The request has expressed concern about the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region predominantly inhabited by Armenians and situated within Azerbaijan. Approximately 120,000 individuals are reportedly encountering food scarcity and are on the brink of a severe humanitarian crisis.

The UN Security Council meeting concluded with a robust yet fairly conventional statement emphasizing the immediate reopening of the Lachin Corridor, which serves as the connection between Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and the global community. They urged both Armenia and Azerbaijan to avoid politicizing humanitarian assistance, address the needs of civilians, and work toward normalizing relations for a potential future peace agreement. Nevertheless, it remains highly foreseeable that Azerbaijan will persist with its genocidal policies aimed at the Armenian population, particularly in Karabakh.

Given Azerbaijan’s demonstrative noncompliance with the International Law through disregarding for two ICJ orders and its ongoing genocidal approach towards Armenians, the proposition made by Dr. Ocampo regarding the establishment of a specialized International Criminal Tribunal for Azerbaijan becomes an urgent necessity.

(Professor. Dr. Hayk Kotanjian, Honorary President of Political Science Association of Armenia, Alumnus, former Distinguished Visiting Faculty, NDU, former Visiting Research Fellow, Harvard JFK School of Government. Dr. Arthur Atanesyan, Professor of Political Science, Yerevan State University of Armenia.)

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