Azerbaijan’s Aggression in Karabakh
An emergency debate on the "Humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh" will take place at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Thursday, October 12. According to Thibault van den Bossche, ECLJ Advocacy Officer, this debate is an opportunity for MPs to go beyond declarations and suspend Azerbaijan from the Council of Europe.
After its aggression, Azerbaijan took full control of Nagorno-Karabakh. On September 20, 2023, after a day of hopeless fighting, 200 dead and 400 wounded, Artsakh's forces surrendered unconditionally. Under duress, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will dissolve itself on January 1, 2024.
Ethnic cleansing has begun: 80% of Armenians, bled dry after nine months of blockade, with no military support from Armenia, itself isolated on the international stage and lacking everything, have already fled, seeking refuge in Armenia.
This tragedy comes as no surprise: already in November 2020, after two months of conflict, Azerbaijan had seized 75% of this autonomous territory, forcing all Armenians, without exception, into exile and systematically destroying every sign of their millennia-old presence.
Nagorno-Karabakh today, Armenia tomorrow
For Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri president, this is a tremendous success. Son of a former KGB officer and Communist leader at the head of the country for over thirty years (1969-2003), Ilham Aliyev inherited the governance from his father and the ambition of attaching Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
Known for his war crimes, he is not willing to stop at ethnic cleansing of the Armenians. Indeed, he has never concealed his intention to annex southern Armenia, to create a continuum from Turkey to the Caspian Sea, in order to accomplish an ancient Panturc project.
Lack of credibility for a passive West
The passive West is guilty of failing to assist a people in mortal danger. Its credibility depends on its reaction, especially regarding the double standards for Russia. Let’s not forget that in March 2022, the Council of Europe excluded Russia less than three weeks after the launch of its offensive in Ukraine, claiming that the choice of force over dialogue and diplomacy showed “contempt for the very essence of the Council of Europe.”
Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to September 27, 2020, and absolutely nothing has happened since. Admittedly, the European Union, in its pursuit of sanctions against Russia, has made itself dependent on gas from Azerbaijan, a partner “worthy of trust” according to its Commissioner Ursula Von der Leyen.
Azeri corruption at the heart of the Council of Europe
But this pales in comparison with the support Azerbaijan buys via its caviar diplomacy, bribing various European politicians with caviar of course, but also expensive silk carpets, gold and silver objects, invitations to the Formula 1 Grand Prix, etc. In order to silence criticism of its political repression, Baku thus spent 2.5 billion euros between 2012 and 2014, according to an investigation published in September 2017, entitled “Laundromat,” which the Council of Europe subsequently confirmed.
Azerbaijan's corruption is exerted directly within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Certain members of parliament have been paid millions of euros to systematically block resolutions and reports condemning Baku's human rights violations. Caviar diplomacy is still rife in the European Parliament, where Azeri propaganda is still displayed in the corridors.
Azeri dictatorship has no place in the Council of Europe
Ilham Aliyev was named in the Panama Papers financial scandal in 2016 and in the Pandora Papers scandal in 2021. His dictatorial, nationalist regime muzzles political opposition and the media and flouts human rights in a general climate of corruption and nepotism.
Like Russia, Azerbaijan has no place in the Council of Europe and should be excluded, or at the very least suspended. Indeed, according to Article 8 of its Statute, any member which seriously infringes the provisions of Article 3, namely “the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” may be suspended and then excluded in the absence of improvement.
Several states have already been suspended: Greece between 1969 and 1974, following the establishment of the colonels’ military dictatorship in 1967; Turkey between 1980 and 1984, following the military coup of 1980; and Russia between 2000 and 2001 because of its policy in Chechnya, before being excluded in March 2022.
The living pain of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the pogroms of 1980-1990 alert us to the imminent peril of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Europe, and in particular the Council of Europe, should act and not just talk if it is to remain credible.