Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Azerbaijan on Friday to let ethnic Armenians who fled Nagorno-Karabakh in September return to their homes, and to keep the Armenians remaining in the enclave safe, as part of a set of emergency measures.
The court said that the Republic of Azerbaijan has committed to certain obligations as per the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. These obligations include ensuring the safe and unhindered return of individuals who left Nagorno-Karabakh after 19 September 2023 and wish to return. They also must allow individuals who stayed in Nagorno-Karabakh or returned to depart safely if they wish to do so. Additionally, Azerbaijan must ensure that individuals who choose to stay in Nagorno-Karabakh are not subjected to any force or intimidation that might compel them to flee.
JURIST was previously told by human rights expert and member of the UK House of Lords Baroness Cox that the inability of ethnic Armenian to leave the territory was “deeply worrying” and “could turn into a potential genocide.”
The court’s decision comes after 100,000 Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh and the ethnic-Armenian government of the region announced in September that it would disband, effective immediately. That dissolution came amid a months-long blockade that culminated in violent attacks by Azerbaijani forces. Although located within the current borders of Azerbaijan, the territory’s population was estimated to be 95% ethnically Armenian, per the CFR Global Conflict Tracker.
This is the fourth time the ICJ has heard a request for emergency measures as part of two competing legal disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both states accuse each other before the ICJ of violating the UN anti-discrimination treaty. The decades-long territorial dispute and conflict is rooted in 1988, when the people of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded secession from Azerbaijan, and sought to be folded into Armenia.
Armenia officially became the 124th State Party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a separate international court, on November 14 in a move that “affirmed its sovereignty, demonstrated its shared values with democratic nations, and finally gained a viable avenue to seek criminal accountability for the heinous atrocities committed by Azerbaijanis on Armenian territory.”