Karabakh Marks 18 Years Of Statehood And Democracy On Human Rights D

By Allen Yekikan

Dec 10th, 2009

A man in Karabakh walks against the backdrop of a banner that reads
"constitution" in Armenian.

STEPANAKERT-As the world marked the 61st anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights on Thursday, The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
commemorated two declarations of its own, celebrating the decision of
its people to declare independence in 1991 and a vote by the population
in 2006 to approve a new constitution reaffirming democratic statehood.

Karabakh’s population on December 10, 1991, held a general referendum
and overwhelmingly voted in support of independence from the Soviet
Union. Azerbaijan, which had been given control of the indigenous
Armenian region of Karabakh by Stalin responded to the pro-democracy
movement with military force, declaring war on Karabakh.

In 2006, the people of Karabakh held a second referendum on December
10, internationally known as Human Rights Day, to adopt a new
constitution that reaffirmed Nagorno-Karabakh as a sovereign and
democratic state.

"In the modern history of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), December 10
twice proved to be pivotal," Karabakh’s President Bako Sahakian said
in an address congratulating the nation on the "crucial holiday."

"For us the powerful, independent, sovereign, democratic and legal
state is an exclusive value that has no alternative."

"In 1991 on this day the Artsakh Armenians expressed their unified will
and confirmed the dedication of creating an independent statehood. On
the same day of 2006 again through the nation-wide referendum the
basic law of our state, the Constitution, was adopted, registering
another great victory of our state, which succeeded in defending
its independence and freedom and was firmly staying on the path of
democracy," he said.

He described December 10 as "symbolic" for the people of Karabakh, who
had faced seven decades of discrimination and subjugation under Azeri
rule. "December 10 is also celebrated as International Human Rights
Day. This fact is symbolic for itself as the Artsakh movement, the
birth and the very existence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic are the
integral parts of human rights, the reflection of the basic universal
rights of equality and self-determination of nations," Sahakian said.

But the two plebiscites, and nearly two decades of democratic
development in Karabakh are largely ignored by international mediators
working to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, left frozen since
a Russian-brokered cease-fire in 1994 put an end to the brutal war
launched by Azerbaijan in the wake of the 1991 referendum.

Ongoing peace talks, currently between Armenia and Azerbaijan,
leave Karabakh out of the equation and ignore its people’s right to
self-determination. Meanwhile, mediators from the OSCE Minsk Group
have said the two sides are close to an agreement on Karabakh, which
will see the transfer to Azerbaijan of liberated territories vital to
the survival of the fledgling republic and a referendum to determine
Karabakh’s status that will follow the assisted influx of Azerbaijanis
into the country.