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Armenia and Azerbaijan face off in UN court

October 14, 2021

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse the other of violating an international anti-discrimination convention in the wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The conflict left thousands dead, and tensions continue.

A woman holds a photo of a Armenian service member during a memorial
Armenia told the ICJ it wants to 'prevent and remedy the cycle of violence and hatred perpetrated against ethnic Armenians'Image: Artem Mikryukov/REUTERS

Armenia on Thursday accused Azerbaijan of promoting systematic ethnic hatred against Armenians, and urged judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to issue an order to halt hate speech. 

During opening arguments at the ICJ, Armenian representative Yeghishe Kirakosyan also asked the court to order the release and repatriation of prisoners of war taken during the conflict in late 2020. 

The feud between the neighbors escalated into open war last year over the disputed region of Nargorno-Karabakh , which left well over 6,000 people dead.

Azerbaijani troops drove ethnic Armenian forces from territory that they had controlled since the 1990s in and around the region before Russia brokered a ceasefire.

"With this application, Armenia instead seeks to prevent and remedy the cycle of violence and hatred perpetrated against ethnic Armenians," Kirakosyan said.

What is the legal background of the case?

Last month, Armenia filed a case with the ICJ, charging that Azerbaijan violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

After Armenia made its claim, Azerbaijan filed a counterclaim, accusing Armenia of violating the same treaty. Hearings on the Azerbaijani case are due before the court next week.

The hearing Thursday did not go into the merits of the case, but dealt with a request from Armenia to impose urgent interim measures to stop any violations while the court considers the larger case. 

What has Azerbaijan said?

Azerbaijan is asking the court to order similar protective measures while the cases are ongoing, accusing Armenia of carrying out ethnic discrimination against Azerbaijanis. 

Azerbaijzan's deputy foreign minister, Elnur Mammadov, told the hearing via video link on Thursday that it is actually Armenia that was involved in "decadeslong ethnic cleansing."

Mammadov also said Armenia's request "is defective, and must be rejected.''

It will likely take years before ICJ judges reach a final ruling in the Armenia-versus-Azerbaijan case, but a ruling on emergency measures could come in weeks.

kb/wmr (AP, Reuters, dpa)