(By Mr. Bob Blackman British MP, & Mr. Javanshir Feyziyev, MP of Azerbaijani Parliament) :-
Ending impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of grave violations of international humanitarian law against the civilian population of Azerbaijan is necessary to achieve durable peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
However paradoxical it may sound in the post-1945 world of international norms and principles, the use of force against the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, military occupation of the latter’s Nagorno Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions and ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijani population of these territories are not the only grave violations of international law committed by Armenia in the wake of its three decades-long aggression against Azerbaijan. Starting in the late 1980s, Azerbaijanis have been the victims of a number of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by the Republic of Armenia including, inter alia, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. These have resulted in hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis losing their most fundamental human rights, most notably the right to live on their own land.
On February 26, 2021 Azerbaijanis from all over the globe will commemorate the 29th Anniversary of the bloody massacre committed against the peaceful civilian population of Azerbaijani town – Khojaly by Armenia’s Armed Forces, including the irregular local Armenian armed bands, and with the direct participation of 366th Motorized Infantry Regiment of the former USSR. On the night of February 25-26, 1992 while seizing the city of Khojaly, Armenians killed 613 civilians, including 63 children, 106 women and 70 elderly people. 487 inhabitants of Khojaly were cruelly mutilated, with the perpetrators resorting to particular brutality and bayoneting pregnant women, beheading, scalping and burning alive the civilians of the town. 8 families were completely wiped out, 25 children lost both parents and 130 children lost one of their parents. To date, 150 people from Khojaly remain missing.
The Republic of Armenia must accept full responsibility for the Khojaly genocide, which is explicitly confirmed by the evidence, including investigative evidence, records, testimonies of eyewitnesses, international media reports, and documents of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
In its judgement of April 22nd 2010, the European Court of Human Rights made the following observation, which leaves no doubt as to who is to blame for the crime and ensuing responsibility for it: “It appears that the reports available from independent sources indicate that at the time of the capture of Khojaly on the night of 25-26 February 1992 hundreds of civilians of Azerbaijani ethnic origin were reportedly killed, wounded or taken hostage, during their attempt to flee the captured town, by Armenian fighters attacking the town”.1 The Court noted that the behaviour of those carrying out the incursion as “acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
International courts and organizations have recognized the gravity of the atrocity in Khojaly while the national legislative bodies of 16 States, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation adopted resolutions and declarations condemning in strongest terms the massacre of the civilian population in Khojaly and recognising the tragedy as an act of genocide and crime against humanity. The Khojaly massacre constitutes a serious violation of Genocide Convention of 1948, which seeks the prevention and punishment of genocidal acts and which was the very first human rights treaty to be adopted by the UN General Assembly.
Despite its superiority and significance for our civilized world, failure to hold the perpetrators of such a grave act accountable causes great concern. For, it is, in essence, the impunity which paves the way for this kind of criminal offences to occur and holding the offenders to account is the only way to prevent it from happening again in the future.
“Regrettably, impunity which the Republic of Armenia have been enjoying for severe violations of international humanitarian law during First Karabakh War only encouraged them to resort once again to war crimes during Second Karabakh War (lasting between September 27 – November 10, 2021), this time using more lethal weaponry, including cluster munitions to cause higher casualties among the civilians. These deliberate attacks launched by Armenia on the civilian population and infrastructures of densely populated Azerbaijani cities such as Ganja, Barda and Tartar, far removed from the battlefield, left more than 100 civilians, including 12 children dead and 423 wounded. The events of 1992 and 2020 demonstrates clearly that these are not sporadic, but deliberate policy and acts of systematic violence by the authorities of the Republic of Armenia against the Azerbaijani civilians.”, Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr. Tahir Taghizade states.
It is clear that impunity is still enjoyed by the perpetrators of the crimes who continue to impede progress in achieving the durable peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan following the Trilateral Agreement signed by Presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia and the Prime Minister of Armenia on November 10, 2020.
Therefore, the establishment of the truth in respect to the gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the conflict, the provision of adequate and effective reparations to victims and the need for institutional actions to prevent the repetition of such violations are all necessary adjuncts to true process of rapprochement and peaceful coexistence between the two nations.
Reference: 1 – Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 22 April 2010, para. 87
(Writers Mr. Bob Blackman MP, Member of UK House of Commons and Chair of APPG Azerbaijan; and Mr. Javanshir Feyziyev, Member of Azerbaijani Parliament and Chair of UK-Azerbaijan Interparliamentary Working Group.)