Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Images credits: TRT World
The bridge that connects the two major continents of the world has been in conflict for a long time. The area known as the Caucasus region lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia (Southern parts) are major countries in this region. (1)The dispute is between Azerbaijan and Armenia over an area of 4,400 Km, which lies inside Azerbaijan, but Armenia aids it through economic support and The Republic of Artsakh governs this area. The region has also witnessed 1st genocide of the 20th century in 1915, which led to the disruption of people’s lives in this region. On 7th December 2021, the International Court of Justice gave an order on the conflict of the landlocked area of Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
But the question is what happened between these two countries and why did the International Court of Justice have to intervene? Let us try to understand this matter from the beginning.
History of Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia’s majority of the religious population comprises Armenian Christians and, in Azerbaijan, the major religious population comprises Muslims. Both of the countries were part of the Soviet Union until 1991. After 1991, they became independent countries. But while drawing borders between these two countries, USSR made Nagorno-Karabakh a part of Azerbaijan, even after most people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to join Armenia but their voices were left unheard. This led to a full-scale war between these two nations. The war lasted between 1988-1994 after which, in 1994, the Russian Army intervened to stop both of the countries. A ceasefire line known as The Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact was then formed between these two nations. After this deal, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself as a self-declared Republic, known as the Republic of Artsakh and got help from Armenia for economic and military support.
In 1992, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Minsk Group, was formed, which comprised France, Russia and the United States of America. This group was formed to make deliberations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but there was no proper outcome from the deliberations. Instead, tension rose when Turkey, a NATO member, gave its support to Azerbaijan for claiming the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. The major reason Turkey supports Azerbaijan is for its religious ethnicity and oil. Turkey has supplied Azerbaijan with weapons like highly advanced drones, missiles and Missiles Launchers and Turkey’s President Erdogan expressed this clearly in an interview where he said that the countries are “one nation, two states”.
In this conflict, where Azerbaijan had support from Turkey, Armenia got help from Russia as economic aid and military arsenals and weapons. The major reason Russia supports Armenia is because of its religious ethnicity, since Russia dominates Orthodox Christians. This created the situation much worse between both countries.
In 2007, OSCE Minsk Group, European Union and the UN conducted its deliberation with both countries, but these deliberations were a failure. In 2018 Armenia’s longtime ruler Serzh Sargsyan was removed by newly elected Nikol Pashinyan, who is now Armenia’s Prime Minister. After Mr Pashinyan came to power, he conducted meetings with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to reduce tension between the two countries, but the meeting didn’t give any outcome.
In 2019, Mr Pashinyan made an open statement during a national address that “Artsakh is Armenia, full stop”, which made anger rush into Azerbaijani President Aliyev and he condemned Mr Pashinyan’s statement strongly. This cold war turned into a hot war in 2020. The 1st clash took place in July 2020, then the 2nd clash started on 27th September 2020 until the next 6 weeks, which was ended after Russia intervened and made a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan won the major city of Shusha, which is the major city of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).
The matter at the International Court of Justice
After Azerbaijan gained control over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, on 16th September 2021, went to the International Court of Justice against Azerbaijan by appealing that Azerbaijan is conducting radical discrimination which violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). But both parties accuse each other of the volition of Articles 2 to 7 of CERD. Both parties have asked Court to seek measures in case of ethnic and radical discrimination of people. Here, article 22 of CERD that states that “Any dispute between two or more States Parties regarding the interpretation or application of this Convention, which is not settled by negotiation or by the procedures provided for in this Convention, shall, at the request of the parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice for decision, unless the disputants agree to another mode of settlement”. and Article 36.1 of ICJ Statute, which states that “The jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases which the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations or treaties and conventions in force.” It applies to the jurisdiction for both countries to come to the International Court of Justice.
Armenia vs Azerbaijan
Armenia accused Azerbaijan of discriminating against ethnic Christin Armenian and added that “It believes that Azerbaijan provokes Anti-Armenian policy in its states, which has led death, torture and suffering of thousands of Armenian people.” Armenia expressed its focus on the infamous Armenian Genocide which was held between 1914 -1918 where Turkish forces slaughtered nearly one million Armenians, and a similar incident happened in the same year where nearly 20,000 Armenians were killed by Turkish and Azeri forces in the city of Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan). Armenians focused on the point that Azerbaijanis have violated their rights, for which stated several cases from the European Court of Human Rights, like Makuchyan and Minasyan v. Azerbaijan and Hungary; Mirgadirov v. Azerbaijan and Turkey to justify and prove in a court of Law that “Azerbaijan has a well-maintained record of torturing and murdering people”.
Azerbaijan vs Armenia
Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of creating a mono-ethnic state and also pointed out that the entire world has recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Artsakh governs it, but Armenia completely denies it. Azerbaijan in its petition appealed that during the 1st Karabakh war, Armenians who were living in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) killed, murdered, raped many local Azerbaijanis who were living in Nagorno-Karabakh at that time. Armenians have destroyed their mosques and other holy and religious places. They are also spreading hate against Azeris on digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Which has led to ruin Azerbaijanis reputation.
Decision of Court
Court after hearing gave its latest order on Dec 7, 2021, where it ordered Azerbaijan to protect violence and bodily harm and lawfully treat all the Armenian prisoners. And to prevent from vandalism of Armenian churches and other religious places by expressing that
Images credits: Opinio Juris
“The Court considers that, with regard to the situation described above, pending the final decision in the case, Azerbaijan must protect from violence and bodily harm all persons captured with the 2020 Conflict who remain in detention, and ensure their security and equality before the law; take all necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred and discrimination, including by its officials and public institutions, targeted at persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin” Court also asked Armenia to stop conflict from coming to its worse instead should take preventive measures happening such an incident also emphasises preserving the specific rights of people. It said that “In this case, having considered all the circumstances, besides the specific measures it has decided to order, the Court deems it necessary to indicate an additional measure directed to both Parties and aimed at ensuring the non-aggravation of their dispute .”
The Court has also given provisional measures to - Azerbaijan following its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to take all necessary procedures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred and discrimination, including by its officials and public institutions, targeted at persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin. Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve. The Court gave the following order on 7th December 2021 and asked both countries to make cooperative efforts to make peace with each other.
The 19th and 20th centuries have been filled with many such conflicts between two countries over land or a particular area. But each conflict varies with the other. What we need to understand about this conflict is that how both countries are trying to blame each other for losing people and to claim the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. We can also see that how the rights and voices of people from Nagorno-Karabakh were crushed or left unheard by the powerful states of Armenia and Azerbaijan. How there was the destruction of both ethnic communities in the name of Justice and how superpowers like Russia and Turkey influenced controlled the war for their own sake. This conflict shows how leaders of interest used the opportunity. But in the end, no one is the real winner because the loss of people’s life is a bigger loss than losing a piece of land.
BY MIHIR SINGH