Genocide Warning for Nagorno Karabakh issued by human rights organizations

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Today, a group of human rights organizations issued a collective Genocide Warning for the indigenous Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh (also known as Artsakh).

“All 14 risk factors for atrocity crimes identified by the UN Secretary-General’s Office on Genocide Prevention are now present,” the groups wrote.

The Genocide Warning was triggered by Azerbaijan’s decision to impose a blockade on the territory last Monday, December 12. Azerbaijani activists and soldiers blocked the Stepanakert-Goris Highway through the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting the 120,000 Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh to the outside world.

Since then, the shipments of food, fuel, and medicine on which the region’s civilian population depends to survive have come to a halt. Local authorities have warned that a humanitarian disaster will occur if the blockade is not lifted.

In addition to the blockade, the organizations noted that, “The government of Azerbaijan has long promoted official hatred of Armenians, has fostered impunity for atrocities committed against Armenians, and has issued repeated threats to conquer not only Nagorno Karabakh, but also Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, by force.” 

John Eibner, the president of Christian Solidarity International (CSI), commented on the Genocide Warning: “The process of the Armenian Genocide has been ongoing since the Ottoman massacres of the late nineteenth century. Now, by placing Nagorno Karabakh under blockade, the dictatorship of Azerbaijan is clearly telegraphing its intent to carry out another phase of the Genocide.”

 “If the world’s many collective commitments to preventing atrocities mean anything at all, the international community must act now, collectively, to protect the civilian population of Nagorno Karabakh.” 

Under the Soviet Union, Nagorno Karabakh was an Armenian-majority autonomous region within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. It has enjoyed de facto independence since the early 1990s, after Azerbaijani forces tried and failed to ethnically cleanse the territory of its Armenian Christian population. That ethnic cleansing campaign also began with an economic blockade. 

In September 2020, Azerbaijan launched an invasion of Nagorno Karabakh, killing thousands and expelling tens of thousands of Armenians from their homes. Armenian civilians caught behind enemy lines were systematically killed or kidnapped.

The statement concludes with a call to “all contracting parties to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation, to fulfill their obligations, through the UN Security Council, to prevent another chapter of the Armenian Genocide”.

“We also call on the UN Security Council to act to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access for all international organizations to Nagorno Karabakh, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the organizations wrote.

Current signatories to the statement include: Christian Solidarity International, the Baroness Cox (founder president of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust), American Friends of Kurdistan, the Armenian Bar Association, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Hellenic American Leadership Council, In Defense of Christians, International Christian Concern, the Philos Project, and Professor Armen T. Marsoobian (First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars).All concerned actors and organizations are invited to add their signature to the statement. The list of signatories will be continuously updated at: https://www.genocidewarning-nk.com/