The status of requests by Yerevan and Baku to the International Court of Justice

On September 16, 2021, Armenia submitted an application instituting proceedings in the name of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan in the UN International Court of Justice for violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, requesting the Court to indicate eight provisional measures against that country.

Two of these requests were related to the immediate release of prisoners of war and their treatment in accordance with obligations under the CERD. Two of them referred to the preservation of the Armenian historical, cultural and religious heritage, the prevention of vandalism, as well as ensuring access to these places.

One request was related to Azerbaijan refraining from espousing hatred of people of Armenian ethnic or national origin, and another one was related to Azerbaijani side regularly reporting to the Court on all measures taken.

On September 23, Azerbaijan submitted an application against Armenia for violating the same convention, requesting the indication of 6 provisional measures of protection.

Two of the requests referred to Armenia providing accurate information about landmines and ceasing to plant landmines in “Azerbaijan’s territory”. Two requests were related to preventing certain organizations and individuals from engaging in the incitement of racial hatred towards Azerbaijanis, the manifestations of hate speech, as well as the prevention of destruction of evidence related to allegations of ethnically-motivated crimes against Azerbaijanis. The last request referred to Armenia regularly reporting to the Court on all measures taken.

On December 7, the International Court of Justice issued orders based on the applications submitted by Armenia and Azerbaijan, indicating 2 provisional measures against Armenia and 4 against Azerbaijan.

It is noteworthy that the Court notes that in Azerbaijan, racial hatred of Armenians is incited by state bodies and high-ranking officials, while in the case of Armenia, the court records such manifestations only among certain groups and organizations.

Referring to the request by official Yerevan to suspend the activity of “Military Trophies Park”, the Court takes full cognizance of the assurances of the Azerbaijani side that that mannequins depicting Armenian soldiers and displays of helmets allegedly worn by Armenian soldiers during the 2020 Conflict have been permanently removed from the park and will not be shown in the future. In the conclusion, it is noted that the Azerbaijani side has submitted two letters from the Director of “Military Trophies Park”, indicating that the items were removed on October 1, 2021.

As for the immediate release of Armenian prisoners of war and civilian detainees, the Court notes that international humanitarian law governs the release of persons fighting on behalf of one State who were detained during hostilities with another State, also recalling that measures deriving from the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination do not fall within the scope of CERD.

The Court does not consider that CERD plausibly requires Azerbaijan to repatriate all persons identified by Armenia as prisoners of war and civilian detainees. The Court also notes that Armenia has not placed before the Court evidence indicating that these persons continue to be detained by reason of their national or ethnic origin.

The Court also takes note of the joint statement issued by several United Nations human rights experts who, on 1 February 2021, expressed grave concern at allegations that prisoners of war and other protected persons have been subjected to extrajudicial killings in Azerbaijan.

Referring to Armenian religious and cultural heritage, the Court notes that Azerbaijan “accepts that all persons who are lawfully present in Azerbaijan, including persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin, must be able to visit on an equal basis historic, cultural and religious sites that are safely open to the public in its territory”.  The Court also refers to Azerbaijan’s claims that “certain heritage sites are currently not accessible due to the placement of landmines”.

The Court orders both Parties to refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.


Nane Manasyan

Union of Informed Citizens

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