Map of Artsakh with Azerbaijan's blockade of Lachin corridor. Credit: Armenian Assembly of America
The Lemkin Institute has published a 126-page Report on Risk Factors and Indicators of the crime of Genocide in the Republic of Artsakh: Applying the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, which, using the UN Framework, documents in detail threats of genocide against Armenians in the South Caucasus posed by the regime of President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan. The Framework further allows us to measure where we are in the genocidal process.
The Report concludes that the crime of genocide may already be taking place in the form of the 9-month blockade of the territory of Artsakh, which is both “Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” and “[d]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (paragraphs II.b. and II.c. of the 1948 Genocide Convention). Azerbaijan’s crimes conform to Patterns 5 (Gross human rights violations + mass cultural destruction), 6 (Man-made famine/”Genocide by Attrition”), 7 (Environmental despoliation /”Ecocide” and land alienation), and 9 (Denial and/or prevention of identity) of the Lemkin Institute’s Ten Patterns of Genocide and seem to be headed towards patterns 1 (Gender-neutral mass murder characterized by gendered atrocity) and/or 2 (Mass murder of ‘battle-aged men’ + atrocities against women and children).
A particular feature of this report is its documentation of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s very public commitment to rid the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) of any remnant of the autonomous historical and cultural community known as the Armenians of Artsakh, or Artsakhsis. His public speeches, the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor, repeated breaches of the Tripartite Ceasefire Statement of November 2020, and the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in areas of Artsakh under Azerbaijani occupation appear to show the special intent to commit genocide. Moreover, his threats extend to large territories within the Republic of Armenia, including the southern Syunik province and the capital city of Yerevan.
The deep implication of eliminationist anti-Armenian hate within the Aliyev regime and Azerbaijani institutions of government leads us to conclude that Azerbaijan is a genocidal state. This fact must be addressed before there can be any peace in the region.
Although there has been recent news that Azerbaijan has lifted the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which links Artsakh to the outside world, this promise has yet to materialize. Azerbaijan seems to be buying time with the international community until it is ready to invade Artsakh and parts of the recognized sovereign state of Armenia.
There is in fact alarming evidence that President Aliyev may be planning a military assault on Artsakh in the very near future. On 16 August 2023, President Aliyev signed a new decree ordering all eligible citizens 18 years of age or older to report for military service between 1 October and 31 October 2023. Furthermore, Azerbaijan is firing almost daily on the Gegharkunik Province of the Republic of Armenia with small arms and mortars and has moved and concentrated its forces along the entire line of contact with Artsakh.
A military assault on Artsakh could lead to the mass murder stage of genocide. It would almost assuredly result in the forced displacement of Armenians from Artsakh and the widespread commission of genocidal atrocities, reflecting those committed in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020 and subsequent hostilities. If the Armenians of Artsakh were to be displaced, it would not only create an enormous movement of refugees en masse that could further destabilize the region and possibly draw in regional and global powers, but also it would result in the genocidal destruction of a people, as the Artsakhs Armenians would lose their distinct identity as Artsakhsis, an identity that has been forged through centuries—millennia—of independent cultural flourishing in their mountains and valleys.
It is critical that we prevent war and genocide in the South Caucasus and demand an independent commission to study grievances on all sides and set the stage for a judicious resolution to the legitimate self-determination claims of Artsakh Armenians.
Please contact your heads of state to let them know that you oppose any further support for Azerbaijan from your government (if applicable) and other international actors. Armenians should not be forced to negotiate with a regime that has publicly stated that it seeks to rid them from the South Caucasus. What is needed is forceful diplomacy to draw Azerbaijan back from its genocidal plans.