STATEMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISTS ADDRESSED TO THE UN OFFICE IN ARMENIA
Updated: Oct 23, 2020
photo courtesy: Karen Mirzoyan
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to express our grave disappointment with the indifference of international organizations in regards to the war crimes and atrocities being perpetrated on the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh).
On September 27 2020, Azerbaijan started a war with Artsakh, disregarding the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in March and a subsequent UN resolution in June 2020 that urged for a global cease-fire in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On September 28, 2020, a group of civil society representatives, joined by 100 organizations, issued a call to the international community demanding that it take urgent and effective measures to put an end to the Azerbaijani military aggression and to resume negotiations for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
On October 1, 2020, there was another call, which stressed that if the international community did not react in a timely and appropriate manner to the instigated war, it had to share the responsibility for the atrocities and destabilization that would occur in the region. This call was precipitated by the existence of solid evidence regarding the engagement of Turkey in the war through its military personnel and equipment as well as deployment of mercenaries, including terrorist groups, recruited from Syria. This call was signed by more than 200 organizations and individuals and a petition was delivered at a civic action in front of the UN building in Yerevan.
To date, there has been no reaction from any international partners. As Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, stated ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’
Meanwhile, the systematic indiscriminate shelling, with the use of cluster munitions, ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, of Stepanakert and other peaceful settlements, has resulted in the loss of human lives and life-changing injuries, significant damage to civilian infrastructures, such as schools, kindergartens and hospitals, and cultural objects, but also in the displacement of a significant part of the civil population of Artsakh.
Ombudspersons of both Artsakh and Armenia have documented paramount evidence of war crimes resulting from the attacks of Azerbaijan/Turkey in their reports on Artsakh (dated October 1 and October 10) and Armenia (dated October 1). Ombudspersons have also repeatedly extended calls to the international community to intervene to stop the ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
While in Armenia the international community was mostly silent in regard with the situation in Artsakh, in Azerbaijan, representatives of international organizations and diplomatic missions visited Ganja to personally witness the consequences of the conflict. The UN Resident Coordinator in Baku made an apparently biased statement that they want the Azerbaijani community to return to Nagorno Karabakh. Representative of UNICEF in Baku has made a statement on that they will provide support to children, injured during an Armenian missile attack in Ganja.
The majority of the international organizations are not permitted to visit Artsakh, because of it being a “non-recognized state․” Vardenis and Artsvanik, however, are in the territory of the internationally recognized Republic of Armenia, and the international actors did not go there to observe the damage caused by the Azerbaijani shelling that resulted in civilian casualties.
Drawing parallels, we consider the current stance of international organizations, and particularly the UN structures in Armenia, as an unprecedented negligence of their mandates, values and responsibilities. The war is in its 19th day and we have yet to witness a single effective action of international organizations to condemn and prevent the actions of the autocratic leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey, one of whom is ready to sacrifice his own people’s lives in order to maintain his power and wealth earned through corruption, while the other tries to return to the boundaries of the Ottoman empire through the same genocidal techniques as did his predecessors. A century ago, there were no organized international organizations to adequately react to the violence of dictators, but now the existing multiple organizations are idle and silent and act as mere spectators of the demonstration of the newest weaponry and death of innocent people in the battlefield of Artsakh.
The people of Artsakh have been abandoned and left completely alone with their tragedy, facing an existential threat. Even more tragic is the impending humanitarian crisis, which may not even be documented by the eligible organizations given their bans for entry to the ‘non-recognized’ state of Artsakh. These non-actions are absolutely incompatible with the UN’s major promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals requiring that we “leave no one behind”.
It is needless to say how shocked and frustrated we are to witness the complete inaction of international organizations working in Armenia and particularly the UN agencies represented in the country. We are certain that the UN Office in Armenia understands clearly who started this war and what is currently happening to the indigenous people of Artsakh who merely want to live on the land of their ancestors who have built a historic, cultural and political heritage for many centuries. And people in Artsakh deserve to live a peaceful and dignified life in their homeland.
We believe that the spirit of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, internationally recognized norms and principles, including the absolute prohibition of war crimes under the international customary law creates both the moral and legal authority for all UN entities to speak for the peoples of unrecognized territories as well. Human lives matter regardless of politics, money and boundaries. The potential ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crisis should be prevented, no matter if the respective territory is recognized or not.
We highly appreciate the timely statements of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, yet we know that the events on the ground require more active and in-depth engagement without further delay in order to prevent additional human suffering.
We appeal to the UN in Armenia to act in line with its mandate - taking an active stance in stopping the war, resolving the conflict through negotiations and preventing the humanitarian crisis in the region.
We particularly urge the UN Office in Armenia
1․ To fully explore and clearly condemn the military offensive and deployment of mercenaries in the region by Azerbaijan and Turkey and act to stop their aggression leading to the ethnic cleansing in Artsakh;
2․ To prepare grounds and facilitate the visit of international representatives to the territory of Artsakh in order to collect and document evidence on the breaches of the international humanitarian law and atrocities in its peaceful settlements;
3․ To provide help to the Government of Armenia to overcome the problems caused by the accelerated spread of COVID-19 as a result of the Azerbaijan/Turkey instigated war;
4․ To ensure due humanitarian assistance is made available for the Government of Armenia to ensure relief for the displaced people of Artsakh;
5․ To work with Baku-based counterparts and elaborate a program for the neutralization of hatred, hostilities and war propaganda in the region, as stipulated under Article 20 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
Follow the link, to join the statement, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc-i_GBefCOOr2-JsgD_IrRZJlbWLO8gZJXsOxLRwEnrPipfA/viewform