On March 31, 2020, the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) successfully held its presidential (sixth) and parliamentary (seventh) elections, with the Central Election Commission (CEC) reporting that 72.7 percent (76,728 voters) of Artsakh’s 105,540 eligible voters cast ballots at polling places across the republic.
Sadly, several individual states and international organizations responded to this exercise in democratic self-government by joining with the authoritarian regimes of Azerbaijan and Turkey in refusing to recognize and – in some cases – even condemning these elections. Others withheld direct criticism, explaining their refusal to recognize the legal framework of these presidential and parliamentary elections considering the ongoing OSCE Minsk Process for peacefully resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
We remind all those offering such ill-advised criticism that the initial OSCE/CSCE decision of March 24, 1992, which laid the very foundation for the Minsk Process, refers directly to the “elected representatives” of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) as a participant in the peace process. It goes without saying, that, in order to have “elected representatives,” elections must be held, meaning that these Artsakh elections are not at odds with the OSCE but, rather, fully in line with the foundational OSCE agreements at the heart of the Minsk Group process.
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, in their March 31, 2020, statement on these elections, properly noted that they “recognize the role of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh in deciding its future.” Yet they contradict this commonsense conclusion by saying that these elections – and the leaders democratically chosen by this free and fair electoral process – do not have any bearing on the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. They further seek to dismiss the human and civil rights of Artsakh citizens by saying “that Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized as an independent and sovereign state by any of the Co-Chair countries or any other country,” when such rights are inalienable and not contingent upon any third party acceptance or agreement. Having rejected democracy for Artsakh and denied its citizens the right to vote, the OSCE Co-Chairs seemingly believe that this population should be represented by means other than popular elections.
States and state-level bodies aligning with the corrupt and authoritarian Azerbaijani government’s attack on free and fair Artsakh elections do a disservice to their own international commitments and obligations to uphold and defend the universal principle that: “All peoples have the right of self-determination,” including the right to freely determine their political status through “genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 December 1966).
The Armenian National Committee-International, in cooperation with partner organizations worldwide, will continue to strive for the international recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh and of independence of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). We expect, in fact, we demand, that states and international organizations claiming to be committed to human rights, justice, and peace refrain from any actions hindering the exercise of these rights and freedoms by the people of Artsakh to self-determination. The international community is obliged to assist Artsakh to express the will of its population through free and fair elections.
ARMENIAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE-INTERNATIONAL