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Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh face starvation and destruction, former ICC chief warns

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A former top official of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a report warning that Azerbaijan is preparing genocide against ethnic Armenians in its Nagorno-Karabakh region, and urging the United Nations Security Council to refer the case to the ICC. Luis Moreno Ocampo, who served as the first chief prosecutor of the ICC from 2003 to 2012, said that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a genocide is being committed by Azerbaijan against the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a war in the early 1990s.

Ocampo’s report, which was released on Tuesday, said that Azerbaijan’s blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor, is deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, which is one of the definitions of genocide under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The report said that the blockade, which was imposed in December 2020 by Azerbaijani protesters and later enforced by a military checkpoint, severely restricts the access of food, medicine, fuel and other essential goods to the region, which has a population of about 120,000 people. The report also said that Azerbaijan has been using drones and artillery to target civilian infrastructure and settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, causing deaths, injuries and displacement.

“Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks,” Ocampo said in his report. He called on the U.N. Security Council to act urgently and invoke its power under Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, to refer the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh to the court for investigation and prosecution. He also urged the international community to pressure Azerbaijan to lift the blockade and allow humanitarian aid to reach Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan has dismissed Ocampo’s report as biased and baseless, and accused him of being influenced by Armenia.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh erupted again in September 2020, when Azerbaijan launched a military offensive to reclaim control of the region and its surrounding areas from Armenian forces. The six-week war ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement in November 2020, which resulted in Azerbaijan regaining most of the territory it had lost in the previous war. The agreement also stipulated that Russian peacekeepers would be deployed along the Lachin Corridor and monitor its security. However, Ocampo’s report said that Russia has failed to fulfill its obligations and has allowed Azerbaijan to block and harass traffic on the road.

Nagorno-Karabakh is one of several frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union that have remained unresolved for decades and pose a threat to regional stability and security. The international community has been trying to mediate a peaceful solution through various formats, such as the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States. However, these efforts have been hampered by mutual distrust and divergent interests among the parties involved. Ocampo’s report warned that if left unchecked, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could escalate into a wider war that could involve Turkey, Iran and other regional powers.

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