Statement by Ara Aivazian, Foreign Minister of Armenia, at the High Level Segment of the 46th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

22 February, 2021

Mme President,

Mme. High Commissioner,

Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to join previous speakers in congratulating Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan on her election as the President of the Human Rights Council, and to wish her success in this important endeavor.

The very fact that in the time of unprecedented humanitarian crises this body has continued its work and fulfilled its mandate, speaks about the centrality of human rights protection as one of the key deliverables of multilateralism.

Throughout its first year of fully-fledged membership in the Human Rights Council Armenia ensured targeted and constructive engagement reflecting our principled position on prevention of genocide and unwavering stance on fight against impunity for this heinous crime, worked on strengthening the mechanisms aiming to protect forcibly displaced population, religious and ethnic groups and their cultural heritage, as well as to combat hate speech and hate crimes.

It is particularly encouraging that the HRC biennial resolution on the Prevention of Genocide, which my country has an honor to initiate, enjoyed a wide cross-regional support and was adopted by consensus. The evolutionary development of this resolution derives from the most urgent need to address the number of pertinent challenges such as the need to effectively prevent and address grave human rights violations and serious breaches of international humanitarian law, patterned forms of discrimination, exclusion of protected groups based on their ethnic, racial, national or religious background, hate speech and incitement to violence, justification, biased accounts and denial of the past crimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought grave challenges. It shattered the very foundations of healthcare, economic and social protection systems.  Fully cognizant about extreme vulnerability of the people residing in the areas of armed conflicts, Armenia was among the first states that unconditionally supported Secretary General’s call for Global ceasefire in response to COVID-19.

Mme. President,

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan not only neglected the call by the Secretary General and consequent Security Council resolution 2532 but exploited and weaponized the global pandemic to launch a full-scale military aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. The leadership of Azerbaijan did not make a secret that it aimed at erasing all traces of Armenians from Artsakh and with the direct involvement of Turkey and latter’s affiliated foreign terrorist fighters perpetrated mass atrocities against Armenians. Thus the horrors of the unpunished Genocide against Armenians of the last century reoccurred in another forms of mass atrocities in our region under the incitement and complicity of the same perpetrator.  

The use of force to suppress the right to self-determination is a strict violation of the UN Charter, which clearly states that all international disputes must be settled by peaceful means. 

It is even more deplorable that the mercenaries and foreign terrorist fighters were widely used in a violent attempt to suppress human rights of Armenians of Artsakh including their right to self-determination, something that was acknowledged by a variety of international actors including special procedures of this august body.

Throughout 44 days of the offensive in a flagrant violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law Azerbaijani army committed horrendous crimes and atrocities deliberately and systematically targeting civilian infrastructures, including schools, hospitals, maternity wards, markets, roads, communication systems and other facilities, as well as vandalizing and destroying the Armenian cultural and religious heritage on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, including churches, cross-stones and various monuments.

Being a significant component of the Armenian identity, the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi, Artsakh, was severely damaged after two air raids conducted by the Azerbaijani military. This deliberate attack on the historic symbol of the cultural and religious heritage of Artsakh is a gross violation of international law and the continuation of a pattern of the destruction of Armenian cultural memory by Azerbaijan, aimed at the eviction of Armenians from Artsakh and the destruction of the Armenian cultural presence thereon. 

Mme President,

The execution of Armenian civilians in Hadrut region of Artsakh captured by the Azerbaijani military is one of the most egregious cases of the war against the people of Artsakh, which has already been defined by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as a possible war crime.

Unfortunately, aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh has shown that UN early warning mechanisms didn’t work, which means that we must continue our activity for their further improvement, including within the framework of the HRC review process.

The UN absence from Nagorno Karabakh has been one of the aggravating factors of the lack of international protection. Armenia is strongly convinced that the humanitarian access to Artsakh should not be subjugated to any political considerations and emphasizes the significance of the universal application and protection of human rights for all people irrespective of the status of the territory where they reside.  

One of the hallmarks of this was that Azerbaijan made extensive use of social media platforms to intimidate the Armenian population. With the endorsement of the high level leadership, the Azerbaijani officials and armed forces share videos on social media platforms, which constitute evidence of degrading, inhuman and cruel treatment of the Armenian POWs and civilian detainees, including their humiliation, physical abuse, mutilations, ISIS style beheadings.​The perpetrators of the war crimes who publicly boast about decapitations of Armenians have been decorated with the high State awards, including national hero titles.

Against this background is highly disturbing the fact that Armenian POWs and hostages remain in Azerbaijani custody, now nearly four months after the signing of the Trilateral ceasefire statement on November 9, 2020. However, Azerbaijan has failed to fulfill the commitment to return all PoWs and civilian detainees and it continues to keep a number of them in captivity. 

The immediate return of the POWs and civilians, including women remains an extremely urgent issue and requires an instant solution.

Mme. President,

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those countries and organizations that spared no effort both during and post-war period and provided humanitarian aid to Artsakh, as well as input their full diplomatic and political potential.

The plea for justice and peace for the people of Artsakh must be urgently addressed. The people who fought for their right to live, right to determine their future free of coercion and occupation at this very moment continue to face existential threat in the land of their ancestors.

 I thank you. 

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