The Hague, Nov 17 (EFE). – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday demanded Azerbaijan guarantee that ethnic Armenians who fled Nagorno-Karabakh in September can return “in a safe, unimpeded and expeditious manner, and to protect those who remain in the enclave from the use of force or intimidation.”
The interim measures ordered by the ICJ come after Azerbaijan launched a 24-hour military operation on Sept. 19 to retake all of Nagorno-Karabakh, which belongs to that country but was previously populated by some 120,000 Armenians, an offensive that caused a mass exodus of most of those civilians.
The ICJ ruled that Azerbaijan must comply with its “obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” and imposed several urgent measures to protect the population, as requested by Armenia in a hearing on Oct. 12.
First, the court ruled that Baku “ensures that people who have left Nagorno-Karabakh after September 19 and wish to return can do so safely, unhindered and expeditiously” and that it shall also guarantee that those who remained in the enclave and who wish to leave can do so safely.”
In addition, the UN’s highest court called on Azerbaijan to guarantee that those who wish to remain “will be free from the use of force or intimidation.”
Finally, the ICJ warned Azerbaijan that it must “protect and preserve registration, identity and private property documents and records that concern the persons identified,” and to “have due regard to such documents and records in its administrative and legislative practices.”
The measures imposed by the ICJ are mandatory, which is why the Court has asked Baku to submit a report within eight weeks on the measures taken to comply with the interim measures issued Friday.
In the October hearing, the Armenian Government accused Azerbaijan of having carried out “ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh and denounced that there are almost no ethnic Armenians left in the enclave.
Azerbaijan has rejected this claim by emphasizing that it was “their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation” and publicly asked them to remain as citizens of Azerbaijan.
However, the Karabakhs reject any form of coexistence with the Azerbaijanis after two wars for control of Nagorno-Karabakh in the last three decades and fear that their rights and security will not be guaranteed if they remain in the enclave.
The Armenian-majority Azerbaijani separatist territory will be reintegrated into Azerbaijan’s legal and administrative system following the Azeri victory in a military operation in September.
According to the Armenian authorities, 100,632 Karabakhs of the approximately 120,000 who resided before the military operation in Nagorno Karabakh left their homes since Sept. 24, of which 99.3% have already been registered and identified in Armenia.
“Nine months ago, I stood on this podium and warned that Azerbaijan was implementing a plan to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh of all ethnic Armenians. It pains me a lot to tell you that this has already materialized,” the Armenian representative, Yegishe Kirakosyan, noted then in his intervention in court.
The ICJ is the highest court of the United Nations and deals with disagreements between States over international law, and, although its rulings are legally binding, the court itself has no enforcement mechanisms, and compliance with its rulings is up to the will and respect of the countries to these rulings.
The measures issued on Friday must be implemented while the trial of the case between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination is being held in The Hague, although there is still no date for the beginning of the hearings of the case before the ICJ. EFE