photo courtesy: Narek Aleksanyan, Hetq.am
Since December 12, 2022, the Lachin Corridor - the sole road linking Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) with Armenia and the outside world- has been closed by a group of Azerbaijanis (claiming to be “environmental activists”), effectively isolating the 120,000 population of Artsakh. The blockade was also followed by the closure of natural gas supply by Azerbaijan in the entire territory of Artsakh from 13- 15 December.
The Lachin Corridor (the Corridor) is an essential route for the flow of food and medical supplies. The Corridor has been closed for 12 now, creating an imminent danger of a humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. The blockade has already led to the following alarming humanitarian implications:
People in need of medical interventions that can only be performed in Armenia cannot be transported to Yerevan. 1 person already died for this reason, adults and minors in the intensive care units who need immediate relocation to Armenia.
Essential goods, including medical supplies, cannot be imported to Artsakh. There is a growing shortage of food and essential products, without which the population of Artsakh cannot sustain much longer.
Thousands of citizens are left on the road, families are separated. In particular, 1100 people, including 270 children, are stuck on both sides.
Continuation of the blockade will not only result in acute humanitarian consequence, but shall also be qualified as an ethnic cleansing.
The closure of the Corridor entails gross violation of multiple rights and freedoms of Artsakh population, including the right to life, the right to freedom of movement, the right to be free from torture and other forms of physical and mental ill-treatment. It further violates the requirements of the ceasefire agreement, signed on 9 November, 2020 November, in the aftermath of Second Artsakh War unleashed by Azerbaijan.
Since the closure of the Corridor statements and calls for actions were issued by Human Rights Defenders of Armenia (see Kristinne Grigoryan: A call to international actors to take all possible measures to reopen the Lachin Corridor) and Artsakh (see Gegham Stepanyan: Humanitarian Consequences of the Lachin Corridor Blockade), local and international human rights organizations and professional organizations (see Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum’s Armenian National Platform; medical workers of Armenia; Armenian Psychiatric Association; World Medical Association; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch), international political bodies (see EU calls on Azerbaijan to ensure freedom and security of movement along Lachin corridor; Dunja Mijatović: Movement along the Lachin Corridor should be restored as a matter of urgency to prevent a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh; PACE monitors urge the restoration of freedom of movement along the Lachin corridor).
A sit-in action was initiated in front of United Nations Office in Armenia by Artak Beglaryan, former Ombudsperson of Artsakh. Numerous marches and protests were organized by different groups of the society in Yerevan and Stepanakert with a demand to open the corridor (Open the road of life).
On December 15 Armenia requested the European Court of Human Rights to indicate interim measures against Azerbaijan and oblige Azerbaijan to eliminate violations of the rights of civilians caused by the blocking of the road through the Lachin corridor.
On December 21 the Court obliged Azerbaijan “to take all necessary and sufficient measures to ensure the movement of seriously ill persons in need of medical assistance in Armenia through the Lachin corridor, as well as the safe movement of persons left homeless or in need of means of subsistence”.
On December 21 UN Security Council discussed the blockade of the Lachin Corridor upon the request of Armenia. A number of countries directly called out Azerbaijan for the blockade of the Corridor demanding its immediate reopening.
However, as the blockade continues, Azerbaijan’s dictatorial leadership clearly does not adhere neither to the terms of the ceasefire, nor to the norms and principles of international humanitarian rights and humanitarian law, as well as to the aforementioned decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
Human Rights Research Center considers the opening of Lachin Corridor as an issue of primary concern of all mandated stakeholders, in particular, the OSCE Minsk Group, the Council of Europe and the UN.
Human Rights Research Center calls upon international political bodies and institutions, international human rights organizations and groups to undertake rapid proactive actions (including application of political and economic sanctions), and oblige those in control of the Corridor, namely Azerbaijani authorities and Russian peacekeeping forces, to restore and to ensure a free and secure passage in both directions along the Lachin Corridor without any preconditions.