The long standing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has entered a new stage now that the countries are challenging each other in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). On the 16th of September 2021, Armenia started proceedings against Azerbaijan in front of the ICJ alleging a breach of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). According to a statement of the ICJ, Armenia argues that “For decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination” and that, “as a result of this State-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse”. Armenia and Azerbaijan are both signatories to the CERD.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been in conflict over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia argues that the violations of the rights of Armenians came to the forefront again during the violent conflict that started in September 2020. The hostilities were ended when a ceasefire entered into effect on November 10th of 2020. However, according the a statement of the ICJ, Armenia argues that that even after the ceasefire was established Azerbaijan continued to murder, torture and abuse prisoners of war and hostages.
A spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan said that it would defend itself against the claims and that it planned to file a countersuit against Armenia and that Azerbaijan has been compiling a list of human rights violations committed by Armenia. On the 23rd of September Azerbaijan filed a suit against Armenia in front of the ICJ, also citing violations of the CERD. Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of ethnic cleansing and states that Armenia is guilty of ‘’inciting hatred and ethnic violence against Azerbaijanis by engaging in hate speech and disseminating racist propaganda, including at the highest levels of its government.’’
Rights violations from both sides
The accusations about the violations of rights do not only occur back and forth between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Several human rights organizations have also reported that war crimes are being committed by both sides. In December 2020, after the establishment of a ceasefire, Amnesty International reported that they analyzed several videos that showed crimes on both sides such as extrajudicial executions, mistreatment of prisoners and desecration of bodies. Human Rights Watch has similarly reported violations from both sides, such as the abuse and torture of Armenian prisoners of war (POWS) by Azerbaijani soldiers. It also reported on the use of banned cluster ammunition by Armenia and has reported about unlawful strikes from both sides.