Azerbaijan must allow displaced Armenians to return safely to Nagorno-Karabakh and withdraw its troops, Yerevan requests to the International Court of Justice. The ECLJ supports Yerevan's demands. The Court's decision will be delivered in the coming weeks.
On Thursday 12 October, Armenia asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for ten provisional measures against Azerbaijan in the case concerning the Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Armenia v. Azerbaijan), according to an ICJ press release.
The ICJ must prevent ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh
According to Yerevan, “Azerbaijan shall refrain from […] displacing the remaining ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, or preventing the safe and expeditious return to their homes of persons displaced in the course of the recent military attack […] while permitting those who wish to leave Nagorno-Karabakh to do so without any hindrance.” Additionally, Azerbaijan “shall withdraw all military and law-enforcement personnel from all civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh occupied as a result of its armed attack on 19 September 2023.”
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) supports Armenia's requests. It is unlikely that Azerbaijan will demilitarize Nagorno-Karabakh, the first step in its expansionist and irredentist project that explicitly threatens Armenia itself. However, Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh must be able to stay, leave, or return safely. The ethnic cleansing they are facing is unacceptable, and their right to live on their ancestral land must be protected.
The protection of Armenian heritage at stake
Furthermore, Armenia requests that the Court orders Azerbaijan not to “alter or destroy any monument commemorating the 1915 Armenian genocide or any other monument or Armenian cultural artefact or site present in Nagorno-Karabakh.” This is a wishful thinking, considering that 99% of the Armenian heritage in Nakhchivan, the Azerbaijani exclave between the borders of Turkey and Armenia, has been destroyed, including the historic cemetery of Julfa, despite UNESCO's protests.
On the 75% of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory retaken by Azerbaijan in 2020, all Armenians had fled and all their heritage had been destroyed. Clearly, the best protectors of Armenian heritage remain the Armenians themselves.
A long legal battle before a powerless ICJ
This case before the main judicial organ of the United Nations began on 16 September 2021. Particularly, on 28 December 2022, Armenia had requested the ICJ to order Azerbaijan to restore free access to the Lachin corridor, which it had indeed decided in its order of 22 February 2023.
The ICJ adjudicates disputes between States. It can indicate provisional measures pending its determination of the case on the merits. Its decisions are final and binding, but it has no means to enforce them. As evidence shows, the situation only worsens for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The ICJ will likely deliver a decision favoring Armenia's requests. The ECLJ will not fail to urge the international community to support the effective implementation of the decision.