“For decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination, with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev himself leading the way,” reads its lawsuit announced by the Hague-based UN tribunal on late Thursday.
“As a result of this state-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse,” it says, adding that they “once again came to the fore” during last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
It claims that Azerbaijan has continued to kill and torture Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives even after the six-week war was stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire last November. Dozens of Armenians are believed to remain in Azerbaijani captivity.
Yerevan wants the ICJ to find Baku guilty of violating several articles of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). It is also seeking urgent measures to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm.”
Responding to the Armenian move, Azerbaijan said it is poised to file a similar lawsuit against Armenia in the same court. The Foreign Ministry in Baku said it has been “carefully documenting and compiling evidence of gross human rights abuses” for that purpose.
“This includes Armenia’s targeting of Azerbaijanis for expulsion, torture, murder and serious mistreatment,” it said in a statement reported by the AFP news agency.
In comments cited by the Interfax news agency, the ministry spokeswoman, Leyla Abdullayeva, accused Yerevan of hampering the return of Azerbaijani civilians to districts around Karabakh retaken by the Azerbaijani army during and after the hostilities. She said the Armenians are refusing to share with Baku all maps of their landmines laid in those areas.
Ara Ghazarian, a Yerevan-based international law expert, welcomed the Armenian government’s decision to take Baku to the UN court.
“For Armenia and its people, this lawsuit is a means for legal protection and also deterrence against Azerbaijan,” Ghazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday.
The ICJ was set up after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states. The court usually takes years to hand down rulings on cases brought by them.