Azerbaijan and Armenia File Separate Accusatory Claims with the ICJ

According to Radio Free Europe, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov accused Armenia of ethnic cleansing for continuing to lay landmines in Azerbaijani territory after the conclusion of the six-week war over the contentious Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to Al Jazeera, Armenia filed a separate claim with the International Court of Justice in September, claiming that Azerbaijan has violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by continuing to promote ethnic hatred against Armenians, including systematic torture and murder.

Furthermore, both nations filed protective request claims with the court. Al Jazeera reports that the ICJ has not determined whether it has jurisdiction for the case, and if it does, it is expected to take at least a few years for the judges to reach a final ruling. Armenia’s representative Yeghishe Kirakosyan said that Azerbaijan planted hundreds of thousands of land mines in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s and is therefore not innocent in the matter. Kirakosyan continued by telling the ICJ that Armenia has procured 2 minefield maps and are “ready to provide any more maps in [its] possession.”

The Nagorno-Karabakh region in question is formally a part of Azerbaijan, however, its population is majority Armenian. In the 1980s, the Nagorno-Karabakh’s regional parliament voted to become a part of Armenia, sparking a war that did not end until a 1994 peace treaty kept the region as a part of Azerbaijan. Since then, the region has been maintained by an Armenian separatist government. Last year’s fighting between the two countries resulted in the deaths of approximately 6,600 people. According to a Russia-brokered peace deal in November of 2020, Azerbaijan will hold onto claims of the Nagorno-Karabakh region that it took during the 6-week fighting period. Armenia was required to withdraw from some of the adjacent regions, according to the BBC. Since the peace deal was brokered, Mammadov told Radio Free Europe that land mines have killed or injured at least 106 Azerbaijanis, over half of whom were civilians.

To make matters more complicated, there are major world powers who are invested in the conflict. Russia is generally considered an ally of Armenia because of their shared Christian populations, whereas Azerbaijan is a majority Muslim population and maintains support from Turkey, who support transported weapon supplies to Azeri troops during the war.

Mammadov continued to tell Al Jazeera, “We should now look into confidence and trust-building,” saying that the two countries “cannot live in a state of war forever.” Moreover, since Azerbaijan’s victory in the 44-day war period, Al Jazeera reported that Armenia’s PM Nikol Pashinyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (an ally to Azerbaijan) have begun moving toward the restoration of their diplomatic relations. One condition of this normalization process is the opening of a transportation route between Turkey and Azerbaijan so that travelers no longer have to use land routes through Georgia and Iran. Along with the diplomatic efforts made by each of the countries and their affiliated allies, there needs to be a concerted effort to clear the Nagorno-Karabakh region of any remaining land mines. To build the trust to which Mammadov referred, those who live in the region need to be assured of their safety. The international community should also organize a peace commission that would focus on restorative justice techniques, including testimonies. With these techniques, victims and their families can begin to heal while also combatting the epidemic of generational hatred between the two nations.