YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—An Armenian government official on Thursday urged the International Court of Justice to help reverse what Yerevan regards as “ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from last month’s Azerbaijani military offensive.
Yeghishe Kirakosyan, who represents the government in international tribunals, argued that virtually all ethnic Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have fled to Armenia since the September 19-20 assault that enabled Baku to regain control over the region.
“For millennia, Armenians made up an overwhelming majority in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Kirakosyan told the United Nations court. “Today there are almost no ethnic Armenians left in Karabakh. If this is not ethnic cleansing, then what is?”
“It is still possible to avert the irreversibility of the forced displacement of the ethnic Armenians,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s leadership has denied responsibility for the mass exodus of Karabakh’s population and pledged to protect the rights of local residents willing to live under Azerbaijani rule.
Kirakosyan spoke during court hearings on a dozen fresh injunctions demanded by his government on September 28 as part of an ongoing legal battle with Azerbaijan. Yerevan specifically asked the ICJ to order Baku to refrain from displacing Karabakh’s remaining residents and preventing the safe and speedy return to their homes of the more than 100,000 other locals who have taken refuge in Armenia.
It also wants the Azerbaijani side to withdraw military and security personnel from Karabakh civilian facilities, give the UN and other international organizations access to the depopulated region and protect its religious and cultural monuments.
Another “provisional measure” sought by Yerevan would ban Baku from taking “punitive actions” against Karabakh’s current and former political or military leaders. About a dozen of them were arrested and indicted by Azerbaijani authorities following the offensive. Kirakosyan condemned their “illegal” imprisonment.
The ICJ already ordered Azerbaijan in February to unblock the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. Baku ignored the order.
Meanwhile, in Yerevan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that his government “will do everything” to help all refugees unable or unwilling to return to Karabakh settle down in Armenia. He said it has already proved that it treats them like “citizens of the Republic of Armenia.”
Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting, Pashinyan and members of his government touted financial and other assistance allocated to the refugees. It includes a one-off cash payment of 100,000 drams ($250) which is due to be given to every refugee.
The government claims to have housed more than half of the 100,000 or so refugees in hotels, disused public buildings and empty village houses. It has also pledged to pay every refugee 50,000 drams ($125) per month for housing expenses.