During the fall of USSR at the turn of the last century the Armenian nationalists raised territorial claims to Azerbaijan demanding Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. In 1988 more than 300 thousands Azerbaijanis were expelled from their homelands in Armenia. Many of them were killed. Contrary to the USSR Constitution, which guaranteed inviolability of borders of the Union Republics, Armenian SSR and the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakhboth adopted decisions to institute the process of unilateral secession of the autonomous region from Azerbaijan. Simultaneously, Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia got armed that was totally against existing legislation.
Soon after disintegration of the USSR the Armenia Armed Forces started open aggression against newly born Azerbaijan Republic. During the years of 1992-1993 twenty per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory that included Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts was occupied. The war led to the deaths and wounding of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands became refugees or were forcibly displaced and several thousand disappeared without trace.
The UN Security Council passed a total of 4 resolutions that demanding immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of forces from all occupied lands of Azerbaijan. The 3 resolutions of the UN General Assembly, resolutions of Non-Aligned Movement, OIC, European Union, Council of Europe, NATO, OSCE on Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were passed. The President of the UN Security Council issued 7 statements on the very subject. None of these resolutions was implemented, all statements are simply ignored by Armenia.
The capture of Khojaly town was particularly tragic. Before the conflict, 7,000 people lived in this town of the Nagorno-Karabakh region that was inhabited by only Azerbaijanis. There were no regular Azerbaijani forces over there. From October 1991, the town was entirely surrounded by Armenian troops. Over the night from the 25th and 26th of February 1992,the assault on the town began from various directions. The infantry regiment of the former Soviet Army stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, directly participated in the operation. In a few hours’ time 613 civilians were killed including 106 women, 83 children. 56 people were killed with outrageous brutality, 8 families were totally exterminated, and 25 children lost both parents while 130 children lost at least one parent. Thousands of civilians were wounded and taken hostage, many of whom remain missing, while the town was razed to the ground.
The Armenian author M Melkonian in his book that was dedicated to the participant of the assault on Khojali Monte Melkonian, describes in detail how Armenian soldiers butchered the inhabitants of the town. Thus, as he puts it, “some inhabitants of Khojaly had almost made it to safety, after fleeing for nearly six miles, when “[Armenian] soldiers had chased them down….[They] unsheathed the knives they had carried on their hips for so long, and began stabbing”.
It should be particularly noted that the Khojaly events took place in a period when the incumbent president S Sargsyan of Armenia served as a head of the illegal separatist regime’s “Self-Defence Forces Committee” and, accordingly, his recollections constitute one of the most important sources of evidence. His following words leave no doubts as to the question of the perpetrator of the crimes in Khojaly: “Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype]. And that’s what happened…”.
In its judgment of 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights qualified the massacre of the Azerbaijani civilian population of the Khojaly town as “acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
Given the gravity of the crime committed against the Azerbaijani civilian population in Khojaly, the question, however, is whether there is a clear evidence of the commission of genocide, as that term has been defined in international law. In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which both Armenia and Azerbaijan are parties. This International instrument represents a competent codification of basic legal principles related to genocide. The Convention confirmed that genocide is a crime under international law entailing individual criminal responsibility. In accordance with this treaty, genocide means acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.
It is well known that the present and former presidents of Armenia, along with many other high-ranking officials personally participated in seizing Azerbaijani lands and in the reprisals against civilian population. It is clear that, given the scale and gravity of the offences which they committed, the criminal prosecution of these persons would be an inevitable consequence of their crimes.
It is clear that there can be no long-term and sustainable peace without justice and respect for human dignity, rights and freedoms. The overall assessment of the causes and consequences of the war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan and all existing facts of the tragic events in Khojaly make it absolutely clear that the crimes committed in that Azerbaijani town was not an isolated or sporadic act, but was part of Armenia’s widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities, at the core of which are odious ideas of racial superiority, ethnic differentiation and hatred. The intentional slaughter of the civilians in Khojaly was directed at their mass extermination only because they were Azerbaijanis.
The International Campaign aimed at raising international civil awareness on Khojaly Genocide was initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, Vice-President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, General Coordinator of Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation under the motto of “Justice for Khojaly”. Due to this campaign as well as the efforts of Government and the civil society of Azerbaijan several countries and prestigious international organizations have already introduced resolutions and proclamations commemorating the Khojaly Genocide. We are proud to say that on 1 February, 2012 the Senate of Pakistan adopted resolution recognizing Khojaly genocide and called upon the international community to bring the perpetrators of this crime to the book. Another resolution reiterating the principled stand of Pakistan on the core issue of Azerbaijan was adopted on 05 February, 2013.We are also thankful to the prominent Pakistanis for issuance of statement on 20 February, 214 commemorating Khojaly Genocide.
Expressing once again our deep gratitude to brotherly Pakistan for manifestation of solidarity with Azerbaijan we expect all countries of the world to follow the lead of Pakistan.
The author is Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan