Armenia files a lawsuit against Azerbaijan at International Court of Justice

Sept 19 2021

    JAMnews, Yerevan

Armenia filed a lawsuit against Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice for violation of 6 articles of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The plaintiff states that “Azerbaijan has been subjecting Armenians to racial discrimination for decades”. During this time, the Armenians were subjected to systemic discrimination, massacres, torture and other forms of humiliation.

  • Punish government officials who discriminated against Armenians,
  • Eliminate glorification of acts of racism against Armenians,
  • Refrain from the practice of ethnic cleansing,
  • Refrain from hate speech against Armenians, including in educational materials,
  • Ensure the protection of the rights of Armenian prisoners of war who continue to remain in Azerbaijan after the end of the Karabakh war,
  • Stop the destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage.

This is an incomplete list of the plaintiff’s claims. If the Hague court satisfies the claim of Armenia, it will oblige Azerbaijan to fulfill these and other requirements. The interests of Armenia in the UN International Court of Justice will be represented by lawyer Yeghishe Kirakosyan. He is the representative of Armenia at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has already stated that Baku will “resolutely defend itself” and plans to file a counterclaim.

An interview with an expert on international law Ara Ghazaryan about how the procedure for considering such claims usually goes, what Armenia can get if the claim is satisfied, and what consequences it may have for Azerbaijan.

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– The claim was submitted to the respondent state. Time is allowed for counter-arguments.

The parties will then exchange written statements several times. Basically, this is a written procedure, but I do not exclude that there may be oral hearings.

– This case will be considered for years, based on the experience of similar cases, which were considered for 10-15 years. The same applies to the preliminary immediate measure [the application of which is required by Armenia], although it can be satisfied sooner – within months.

I think it will take a long time since the claim touches on a wide range of issues, the court does not have clear, approved approaches to the issues presented. This is a manifestation of racism that took place in parallel with war crimes. This makes this case different from others.

– The court issues an act, fixes the violation, nothing more. Considering which court establishes it, this will be a very serious legal document. If we manage to get a favorable judicial act, it will be a historical document.

The court does not apply sanctions, they are applied by the Security Council but let’s not forget that this court was created on the basis of the UN Charter, and judges are elected by the Security Council, that is, all UN bodies will take into account the decision of this court and its legal positions.

The claim for compensation is filed at the next stages of court proceedings, this happens after the publication of the judgment if the violation is recorded.

Now Armenia, on a general basis, talks about compensation for the violations committed, which relate to the destruction of cultural values, religious objects, war crimes against individuals and prisoners of war, as well as ethnic cleansing. Another question is when and how the question of compensation on specific issues will be presented.

Thus, first, a violation is recognized by a judicial act, then the court issues a separate act on compensation for damage.

– First of all, this is a remedy, because it will be a decision of a very authoritative court.

In addition, it can become a serious mechanism for restraining Azerbaijan’s unbridled policy. Unfortunately, this will be a long process, but as a result, Azerbaijan will understand that it is impossible to speak from a position of strength since from a legal point of view, we will find ourselves in the sphere of equal opportunities.

Of course, Azerbaijan will try to present a “mirror” situation, speaking for its part about ethnic cleansing, torture and all other issues raised [by Armenia]. I am sure of this because this was the signature behavior of Azerbaijan in the legal field.

In theory, the court’s decision can also contribute to the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh, because the claim is based on the argument that Azerbaijan pursued a racist policy precisely in connection with the Artsakh issue, although the historical facts [presented in the claim] date back to 1918-20 from Nakhichevan.

If the court makes a favorable decision, it will affect not only that part of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, control over which remained with the Armenian side. Questions related to the occupied territories will also be raised. We are talking about ethnic cleansing in all territories inhabited by Armenians, including Hadrut, Shushi, and other settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The lawsuit simply refers to ethnic cleansing in general. In the future, there will be concretization of what territories and what period of time we are talking about.

The main obstacle to the recognition of Artsakh today is the racist policy of Azerbaijan, which does not recognize it only because Armenians live there. If the judicial act establishes that Azerbaijan pursues a racist policy towards all ethnic Armenians, this will already explain the reason why the Artsakh people want independence.

The Armenian authorities put forward the principle of “separation for the sake of salvation”. Although it is not recognized as a theoretical principle in international law, if it is established that the life of the Artsakh people is under threat within the given state [Azerbaijan], it will mean that the only political solution is to recognize the independence of Artsakh.

This judicial act can contribute to the approval, dissemination of the principle of “separation for the sake of salvation”, as well as its application in a specific case – in relation to NK.

Some analysts explain the fact that Armenia has not yet submitted this claim by the fact that the OSCE Minsk Group [mediated peace negotiations before the start of the second Karabakh war in autumn 2020 – JAMnews] considered it undesirable for both sides to start legal cases against each other, as it could interfere with negotiations.

After the war, the situation changed. Now we need to resort to extreme measures since it is ineffective to rely on such a political process as the Minsk Group is leading. Therefore, the legal process comes to the fore.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS