THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Azerbaijan to allow Armenians to safely return to the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a case stemming from a bloody 2020 war over the South Caucasus enclave, the top U.N. court partially granted provisional measures requested by Armenia to allow some of the 100,000 people displaced to return.
Armenia told the Hague-based court during hearings in October that ethnic cleansing was underway in Nagorno-Karabakh and, without intervention from judges against Azerbaijan, tens of thousands of people would be forced out. According to Human Rights Watch, since the latest escalation, more than 100,000 people have now fled — nearly the entire population.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a 1,700-square-mile area that technically falls within the borders of Azerbaijan but is overwhelmingly ethnically Armenian, has been a source of friction since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The 15-judge panel found there was a serious risk of harm to the ethnic Armenian population. “Individuals forced to leave their own place of residence without the possibility of return could be subject to a serious risk of irreparable prejudice,” the court's president, Joan E. Donoghue, said in reading out the decision.
Armenia is accusing its neighbor of violating the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or CERD, which requires signatories to take steps to end racial discrimination and promote understanding between differing nationalities, races and ethnic groups.
While the country requested 10 wide-ranging measures, from withdrawing the military from Nagorno-Karabakh to restoring public utilities, the court only granted three. The first ordered Azerbaijan to allow residents to leave or return to Nagorno-Karabakh safely and the second concerned ensuring the preservation of documents, like identity cards and deeds. Finally, the court told Azerbaijan to send an update in two months as to the situation.
Both countries have repeatedly asked the court to intervene while the underlying case is being considered. In February, the court ordered Baku to guarantee access to the Lachin corridor, the only road between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, as well as to restore the flow of natural gas. Lawyers for Armenia say in the latest complaint that after a large-scale attack on the area, Azerbaijan reopened the highway, forcing civilians to flee.
On Friday, Armenia became the 124th member of another judicial institution in The Hague, the International Criminal Court. Its ambassador to The Netherlands, Mher Margaryan, formally submitted documents to join the world’s only permanent court for atrocity crimes after the government ratified the Rome Statute last year.
The country is hoping the court will look into any crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh.Follow @mollyquell
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