UN faces scrutiny over mission to Nagorno-Karabakh after Armenian displacement

Oct 30 2023

The Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention, a US-based non-governmental organisation, has expressed deep disappointment with a recent United Nations mission to Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), following an Azerbaijani invasion and the forced displacement of the region’s Armenian population.

The Institute called for a more comprehensive and impartial assessment of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, criticising the timing, brevity and transparency of the mission.

“It is difficult to understand what the purpose of such a mission was and why there was never more pressure for Azerbaijan to allow a mission into Artsakh during Azerbaijan’s 9-month blockade of the region that led up to the invasion”, said the Institute in a written statement on Saturday. “If the United Nations is not going to take genocide seriously, it would be better if it sent no missions at all to regions that have experienced genocide”, they added.

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The aim of the UN mission was to assess the humanitarian needs both of the remaining population and of those displaced by the conflict, which resulted in the displacement of most of the Armenian population following the lightning offensive launched by Azerbaijan in the region on 20 September. This offensive eventually resulted in Azerbaijan taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ethnic Armenians in the enclave had been defending the self-declared Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh for three decades.

The Lemkin Institute voiced concerns about the effectiveness of the mission, which was completed in a single day, raising doubts about the depth of the assessment. The mission was the first UN visit to the region in three decades.

Prior to this visit, international concerns had been raised about the safety of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, with the UN Security Council holding meetings and the International Court of Justice issuing several orders against Azerbaijan. The Lemkin Institute had issued several alerts warning of the high risk of genocide for Armenians in Artsakh, further emphasising the need for international intervention.

In its statement, the Lemkin Institute expressed scepticism about the credibility of the mission, citing discrepancies in population estimates, doubts about the damage assessment, and the limited scope of the mission.

The Institute further criticised the mission for failing to include representatives of the Armenian Mission to the UN and also for not visiting the Syunik region to speak with Armenian refugees.

The UN mission on 1 October reported no signs of violence against civilians following the latest ceasefire and expressed surprise at the abrupt evacuation of the local population, leaving between 50 and 1,000 ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region.