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The Crime in Khojaly: Perpetrators Should be brought to book


At the end of 1987, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia openly laid claim to the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan. Contrary to the Constitution of the USSR, which guaranteed the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of the Union Republics, both the Armenian SSR and members of the Armenian community of the NKAO adopted a number of decisions to institute the process of unilateral secession of the autonomous region from Azerbaijan.



The capture of Khojaly was particularly tragic. Before the conflict, 7,000 people lived in this town of the Nagorno- Karabakh region of Azerbaijan inhabited by the Azerbaijanis. From October 1991, the town was entirely surrounded by the Armenian forces. Over the night from the 25th and 26th of February 1992, following massive artillery bombardment of Khojaly, the assault on the town began from various directions.

The infantry regiment of the former Soviet army stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, participated directly in the capture of Khojaly by the Armenian armed units. The attack and capture of the town involved the extermination of hundreds of Azerbaijanis, including women, children and the elderly with mediaval brutality, and thousands of civilians were wounded and taken hostage, many of whom remain missing, while the town was razed to the ground.

The Armenian author Markar Melkonian, who dedicated his book to his brother — Monte Melkonian, who personally took part in the assault on Khojaly, describes in detail how Armenian soldiers butchered the peaceful inhabitants of this town. Thus, as he puts it, “some inhabitants of Khojalyi had almost made it to safety, after fleeing for nearly six miles, when “[Armenian] soldiers had chased them down”. The soldiers, in his words, “unsheathed the knives they had carried on their hips for so long, and began stabbing”.

It should be particularly noted that the Khojaly events took place in a period when the incumbent president Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia served as head of the illegal separatist regime’s “Self-Defence Forces Committee” and, accordingly, his recollections constitute one of the most important sources of evidence.

The following words by Serzh Sargsyan leave no doubts as to the question of the perpetrator of the crimes in Khojaly: “Before Khojali, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype]. And that’s what happened…”.

In its judgment of 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights qualified the massacre of the Azerbaijani civilian population of the Khojaly town as “acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.

Given the gravity of the crime committed against the Azerbaijani civilian population in Khojaly, the question, however, is whether there is a clear evidence of the commission of genocide, as that term has been defined in international law. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which both Armenia and Azerbaijan are parties.

This International instrument represents a competent codification of basic legal principles relating to genocide. The Convention confirmed that genocide is a crime under International law entailing individual criminal responsibility. In accordance with this multilateral treaty, genocide means acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, a national, ethnical, racial or religions group, as such.

It is well known that both the present and former presidents of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharian, together with many other high-ranking officials of this state
and leaders of the separatist regime set up by Armenia in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan, personally participated in seizing Azerbaijani lands and in the reprisals against civilian population. It is clear that, given the scale and gravity of the offences
which they committed, the criminal prosecution of these persons would be an inevitable consequence of their crimes.

It is clear that there can be no long-term and sustainable peace without justice and respect for human dignity, rights and freedoms. The overall assessment of the causes and consequences of the war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan and all existing facts of the tragic events in Khojaly make it absolutely clear that the crimes committed in that Azerbaijani town was not an isolated or sporadic act, but was part of Armenia’s widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities, at the core of which are odious ideas of racial superiority, ethnic differentiation and hatred. The intentional slaughter of the civilians in Khojaly was directed at their mass extermination only because they were Azerbaijanis.

It is significant that several countries and international organizations have introduced resolutions and proclamations commemorating the Khojaly Massacre. These are Pakistan, Romania, Mexico, Columbia, Check Republic, states of Georgia, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Maine, Texas, New Jersey of the USA, Canadian province of Alberta, Parliaments of the Netherlands, Turkey, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Non Aligned Movement, Council of Europe, European Union and others.

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