Both Azerbaijan and Armenia received a slap on the wrist from the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Tuesday. Both countries must incite hatred and prevent discrimination against each other’s population. Azerbaijan is ordered by the court to guarantee the safety of Armenian prisoners of war and to prevent and punish hate speech against the Armenian population. In an almost identical ruling, Armenia is ordered by the court to prevent racial discrimination against Azerbaijanis on Armenian territory.
Armenia indicted Azerbaijan in September for inciting ethnic hatred and committing gross human rights violations against the Armenian population. Azerbaijan presented a counter-charge a week later. US Judge Joan Donoghue, speaking on behalf of her 14 fellow judges in The Hague on Tuesday, has further ruled that both countries must refrain from taking any action that could aggravate the dispute. In addition, Azerbaijan must protect Armenian cultural heritage, such as churches and monuments, from vandalism.
The decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan started when the two countries gained their independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up. The autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh from then on became the focus of armed conflict, which ended in 1994 thanks to a ceasefire. The conflict over the region flared up in the autumn of 2020 due to a war in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. A ceasefire was also declared six weeks after the start of the war, mediated by Russia.
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Both countries invoke the UN Convention against Racial Discrimination. Armenia argues that Azerbaijan systematically discriminates against the Armenian population and subjects them to gross human rights violations, such as mass murder and torture, because of their Armenian identity. Last year’s conflict would have only exposed the violations, Armenia says.
The country is particularly concerned about the treatment of prisoners. The ceasefire would not have put an end to human rights violations. International judges ruled on Tuesday that the detainees should be treated with dignity.
Azerbaijan, for its part, says that arch-enemy Armenia has been guilty of purging Azerbaijanis for decades. It did remove a trophy park in the capital Baku that was filled with mannequins dressed in the equipment of Armenian soldiers. Removing the park was one of the demands of Armenia, which found the park “humiliating.”