Azerbaijani political parties condemn Armenian «war crimes» against civilians

Posted on Oct 21, 2020

By Ceyhun Osmanli

Despite OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts to strike a second humanitarian ceasefire over on 17 October, Armenia once again failed to respect it, shelling the Aghdam region, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh. The first humanitarian ceasefire, brokered by Russia on 10 October had also collapsed, writes Ceyhun Osmanli.

This follows the horrific missile attack on the night of 17 October launched by Armenia against Azerbaijani sleeping civilians in Ganja, killing 13 civilians, including 3 children, leaving 50 civilians wounded, and destroying more than 20 residential buildings. With a population of 500,000 people, Ganja is the second largest city in Azerbaijan, which lies far away from the conflict zone. This attack came only six days after a missile struck the residential part of the city, killing 10 civilians. Since 4 October, the city has been targeted by Armenian rockets and ballistic missiles, alongside with other peaceful cities on the frontline– Absheron, Khizi, Barda, Beylagan, Aghjabadi, Zardab, Goranboy, Goygol, Tartar and Yevlakh. 

Separately, Armenian armed forces launched an operational-tactical missile on Ordubud district of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on 15 October, another Azerbaijani region, which is far away from Nagorno-Karabakh.

‘I ordered to bombard Ganja’ said the de facto leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist regime Arayik Harutyunyan on Twitter on 4 October. As of 17 October, 61 civilians were killed, 291 civlians were injured, 327 civilian facilities and 1704 houses got destroyed in Azerbaijani cities, which are outside of the conflict zone. By contrast, no civilians were killed or destroyed on the Armenian side. 

The shelling of civilians by ballistic missiles, as was the case in Ganja and other Azerbaijani cities during several attempts, is a war crime in violation of international law, including the principles of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. In a letter to international and regional organisations, including the UN, NATO, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union, 51 political parties in Azerbaijan condemned Armenia’s ‘aggressive steps against Azerbaijan’ and excessive militarisation with the aim of ‘occupation of new territories’ in Azerbaijan. The letter highlighted the non-compliance of Armenia with UN resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of 1993, calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan while reaffirming the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the internationally recognised borders of Azerbaijan. 

While 51 out of 52 parties in Azerbaijan are supporting our President Ilham Aliyev in his legitimate quest to restore justice all by respecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in face of the Armenian aggression, only 14 out of 80 parties in Armenia are in favour of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s belligerent policies.

For more than 30 years, Armenia has been occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories in Nagorno-Karabakh and its 7 surrounding districts. Instead of abiding by international law or seeking for a constructive solution during the peace negotiations under the OSCE auspices, Armenia has adopted a new offensive doctrine “new war for new territories”, which was declared by its Defence Minister David Tonayan in March 2019. 

On12 July this year, it launched a large-scale military operation in the direction of Tovuz district on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, which lies far away from the conflict zone. The region has a strategic importance, as it is situated on energy and transport routes connecting Asia and Europe through Georgia. 50,000 Azerbaijanis volunteered for military service after this incident, which shows the popular support the Azerbaijani government enjoys in its fight about respect of international law.

The fighting, which began on 27 September is the worst since the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1991-1994, which led to the loss of 30,000 lives and 1,000,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. War crimes committed by Armenia, such as the 1992 Khojaly Massacre, killing 622 Azerbaijani civilians overnight, have gone unpunished. The international community shall stop turning a blind eye to such crimes against humanity and avoid similar massacres 30 years later. It is time for justice as keeping silent in face of these horrors would make the international community complicit in Armenia’s inhuman attacks.

Dr.Ceyhun Osmanlı is Leader of Azerbaijan Greens, former MP and analyst on international relations and political economy.