This event calls attention to the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crises in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh and Armenia following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Fall 2020. The presentations and moderated discussion will focus on the preliminary findings of a fact-finding trip to the region conducted by four Promise Institute students this past summer 2023 with the University Network for Human Rights, a cross-campus research and advocacy institution facilitating student human rights work across the globe. The fact-finding trip was the final of multiple fact-finding trips – two in Nagorno-Karabakh and four in Armenia – between March 2022 and July 2023 conducted by partners Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights, Wesleyan University, Oxford University and Yale’s Lowenstein Project, in order to investigate and document atrocities being perpetrated against ethnic Armenians.
Thus far, the investigation has resulted in a briefing paper with recommendations to Azerbaijan, Armenia, the international community and the private sector for ending the crisis; an OpEd in Newsweek and a letter to the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide analyzing the risk factors present warning of ethnic cleansing and risk of genocide. A full report and analysis of the situation will be launched later this year for purposes of facilitating interventions to end the crisis and efforts around accountability, with Armenia’s recent announcement that it will consider ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights Assistant Director Jess Peake will moderate, with Tamar Hayrikyan, the Director of the University Network for Human Rights speaking, along with Promise Institute-University Network Fellows Mischa Gureghian Hall, Luis Martínez, Cat Washington and Emily Wilder.
The Lachin Corridor Blockade in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh: Atrocities & the Duty to Prevent Genocide Under International Law
Armenians have suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of Azerbaijan—in Azerbaijan, Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh—for decades. In December 2022, Azerbaijan began its restrictions and eventual full blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the 120,000 ethnic Armenians in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh within the borders of Azerbaijan to Armenia proper. As of this writing, for nearly 300 days, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, 25% of whom are children, have been deprived of life-saving necessities such as food, medicines and fuel, resulting in starvation and death. More recently, even the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian aid organizations were prevented from accessing the population and, all the while, Azerbaijani officials have employed rhetoric normalizing hatred against ethnic Armenians while weaponizing starvation leading to death or forcible displacement from Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh.
Azerbaijan’s aggression with respect to the Lachin Corridor over the past year is not isolated and points to a pattern and practice of ethnic cleansing that has gone unchecked for years. Indeed, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched a military operation against the already-suffering people of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, with multiple deaths and dozens of injuries within the first 24 hours of the attack. This tragic situation became an overt initiation of wholesale, violent ethnic cleansing, and while ceasefire agreements may be in place, threats to the safety and security of the ethnic Armenians in this region continue.
Looking at the situation with respect to attacks against ethnic Armenians as a result of the Lachin Corridor blockade, and recent active military attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh and in Armenia generally, this panel will explore the following key questions drawing from action taken thus far by States and international actors (or not):
- What conditions trigger the duty to prevent atrocities, including genocide?
- Once triggered, what is the scope of that duty, and what tools, both national and international, can help to identify these obligations as well as lawful steps for addressing a genocidal situation?
- Dr. Taner Akçam
- Inaugural Director, Armenian Genocide Research Program of The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA
- Professor Thomas Becker
- Legal & Policy Director, The University Network for Human Rights, Columbia Law School & Wesleyan University, author of briefing “The Tip of the Iceberg” on the Lachin Corridor blockade.
- Professor Hannah Garry, Moderator
- Executive Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights
- Signatory to Submission to UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, Sept. 5, 2023
- Professor Juan Méndez
- American University Washington College of Law, first UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide, author of a “Preliminary Opinion“ on the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh and the need to prevent atrocity crimes.
- Sheila Paylan
- International law, human rights and gender expert; Director, Armenian Women’s Bar Association Board of Directors