Azerbaijan asks ICJ to drop racial discrimination case started by Armenia News
Lybil BER, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Azerbaijan asks ICJ to drop racial discrimination case started by Armenia

Azerbaijan asked the judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday to throw out the “racial discrimination” case started by Armenia in September 2021, where the latter accused Azerbaijan of discrimination and ethnic cleansing of Armenian people in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Deputy Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Elnur Mammadov argued Armenia misused the CERD by basing its complaints on Article 22 of the convention when invoking allegations of “serious mistreatment of Armenians including soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians” connected to the military conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region because “such issues do not lend themselves to the ICJ’s jurisdiction under CERD.” He also added that Armenia failed to pursue negotiations with Azerbaijan to try to resolve the dispute before turning to court as requested by Article 22.

Azerbaijan’s lawyer, Samuel Wordsworth, confirmed Elnur Mammadov’s argument that the ICJ lacks jurisdiction to rule on the complaints filed by Armenia. According to Wordsworth, all the allegations invoked by Armenia “would constitute, if proven, serious breaches of international humanitarian law” that do not fall within the scope of CERD, and linking them to the application or interpretation of the CERD is an “impermissible conflation” between the mentioned convention and international humanitarian law.

The case is related to the long-standing conflict between the two countries over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is located within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian forces since 1994 and is home to the breakaway state of Artsakh. In September 2023, Azerbaijan conducted a military operation in the disputed region and managed to put an end to the Armenian control, which led to the official dissolution of the State of Artsakh and the flight of almost the entire population inhabiting the region to Armenia. Azerbaijan is bound to certain obligations towards Armenian people under the CERD, such as allowing the safe and unhindered return of Armenian citizens who left Nagorno-Karabakh, in addition to ensuring that those who chose to stay are equally and properly treated. However, these obligations were not deemed credible to Armenia, and the latter had to turn to international justice to ask for provisional measures against what she calls the “ethnic cleansing” of Armenians and the deliberate destruction of their culture.

The case between Armenia and Azerbaijan is still pending before the ICJ. The hearings take place throughout this week until April 19.

Correction: A previous version of this post featured a photograph of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a separate court that has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity. The proceedings against Azerbaijan are before the ICJ, the UN’s principal judicial organ.