International court orders Azerbaijan to ensure a safe return of ethnic Armenians to Nagorno-Karabakh

On November 17, judges of the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to allow ethnic Armenians who fled Nagorno-Karabakh in September due to the conflict to return and to ensure the safety of Armenians remaining in the enclave as part of a series of emergency measures.

Source: International Court of Justice’s order

This decision was made after military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh in September caused a massive exodus of most of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians to neighboring Armenia.

Yerevan has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing and asked the International Court of Justice to take emergency measures to protect the rights of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Azerbaijan must ensure that persons who left Nagorno-Karabakh after September 19, 2023, and who wish to return to Nagorno-Karabakh can do so safely, unhindered and expeditiously,” Judge Joan Donoghue said.

The court said Azerbaijan must also ensure that any ethnic Armenians still living in the enclave are “free from the use of force or intimidation that might cause them to flee” and ruled that Baku must report to the court in two months to show what it is doing to comply with the order.

The measures are part of two competing legal disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan that are being heard at the International Court of Justice. Both states accuse each other of violating the UN anti-discrimination treaty.

The date of the main case has yet to be determined, and the final decision is expected by next year.

Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

On September 19, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense announced the launch of “local anti-terrorist measures” to restore constitutional order in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian Foreign Ministry stated that Azerbaijan was conducting “ethnic cleansing” in this way.

The next day, the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities announced a ceasefire. The Azerbaijani president said that “all tasks in the region” had been completed. Subsequently, Azerbaijan announced an amnesty for the Armenian military of Nagorno-Karabakh, who would lay down their arms.

On September 25, protesters in Yerevan announced a general action of disobedience in the country. As of the evening of September 29, about 100,000 refugees arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.

On September 28, the president of the unrecognized Armenian Republic of Karabakh signed a decree that all its institutions and organizations would cease to exist as of January 1, 2024.

Later, Armenia filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice against Azerbaijan, accusing Baku of violating the rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. On October 1, a UN mission arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time in 30 years due to the mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region.

On October 3, Armenia ratified the Rome Statute and pledged to comply with the decisions of the International Criminal Court, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a declaration recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Subsequently, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Yerevan was ready to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan and open transport communications by the end of the year.

Read also: Is this the end of Russian-Armenian friendship?

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