On Thursday (16 September), Armenia instituted proceedings against Azerbaijan with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the principal judicial body of the United Nations – over allegations of infringements to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The application accuses Azerbaijan of subjecting Armenians to “decades” of racial discrimination, and that “[a]s a result of this State-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse”.
The application specifically accuses Azerbaijan of violating, inter alia, articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the convention. These pertain to a signatory’s obligation to (2) condemn and not sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination; (3) to condemn racial discrimination and apartheid; (4) to condemn all organisations and groups “based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin”; (5) to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, including equality before the law; (6) to ensure everyone within its jurisdiction protection or remedies against discrimination; and (7) to adopt measures, “particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information”, with a view to combat prejudices which lead to racial discrimination. The application also asks the court “as a matter of extreme urgency” to recommend provisional measures to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm, and to prevent the aggravation or extension of this dispute, pending the determination of the merits of the issues raised in the Application”.
In response to instituted proceedings, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesperson, Leyla Abdullayeva, released a statement making counter accusations against Armenia for infringements to the CERD, and saying that it would be bringing legal proceedings against Armenia:
“Since Azerbaijan brought Armenia’s illegal occupation to an end, we have been carefully documenting and compiling evidence of gross human rights violations against Azerbaijanis. This includes Armenia’s targeting of Azerbaijanis for the expulsion, torture, murder, and serious mistreatment based on their ethnic origin as Azerbaijanis.”
Abdullayeva’s statement also claims further breaches by Armenia to the CERD, alleging that Armenia has prevented displaced Azerbaijanis from returning to their homes through the “indiscriminate mining of the former occupied territories and refusing to provide mine maps to Azerbaijan”.
Elnur Mammadov, the Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister, has also tweeted saying that Azerbaijan would be holding Armenia to account for breaches to the CERD “in the coming days”:
In the coming days, we will hold #Armenia to account for breaches of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 30 years of human rights abuses against Azerbaijanis during occupation will not be tolerated.— Elnur Mammadov (@ElnurIMammadov) September 16, 2021