For two decades, the world has paid scant attention to the everyday injustices Armenia has perpetrated during its occupation and brutalization of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding, occupied territory. Today, perhaps, that is changing, and a reckoning is coming.
Armenia has illegally occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijan for over two decades in defiance of numerous, binding resolutions by the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, European Parliament, and other international bodies. During that time, summary imprisonment and at times executions have often been the norm, with Armenia pointing the finger at its client “government” in Stepanakert. No United Nations member state, not even Armenia, has recognized that so-called government; yet when Armenia violates norm and custom, it has a scapegoat of its own creation.
In June of last year, Armenian forces in the occupied territories captured two men, Dilgam Asgarov (a Russian) and Shahbaz Guliyev (an Azerbaijani), killing a third, Hasan Hasanov, at the scene. The two captured men were then turned over to the puppet regime in Stepanakert, where they were tried and convicted by a kangaroo “first instance” court for murder and “entering” the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.” Asgarov was sentenced to life imprisonment; and Guliyev was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Under the norms of international law, absent a specific treaty, alleged wrongdoers are to be tried in the country in which the alleged crime takes place. All three men were in Azerbaijan and the alleged crime took place on what the world recognizes as Azerbaijani soil – and yet Armenia had them tried by a court with no legal authority whatsoever. Showing their infinite sense of entitlement, Armenia had them charged with “illegally entering” a state that does not exist for the “crime” of legally being on Azerbaijani soil.
This incident is sadly not unique; it is, rather, yet another instance of Armenia’s aggressions against its neighbor, bolstered by its belief that it will face no sanctions from the world at large.
Yet there is now hope that this is changing. On February 5, Azerbaijani delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Elkhan Suleymanov, introduced a motion for the two surviving men to be tried in a fair trial before an impartial tribunal convened under an internationally-recognized state’s auspices, under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The motion enjoys the support of 46 MPs from 24 nations, including Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland, Ukraine, and Croatia, and presents a new challenge to Armenia’s pattern of lawlessness.
Armenia retains pretensions of a European identity even as it accedes to more and more of Vladimir Putin’s demands (most recently, joining his Eurasian Customs Union instead of moving closer to the EU) and is now in something of a bind: To fight this motion is to demonstrate clearly that it holds the strings over the so-called “Republic” in Nagorno-Karabakh, and — worse — to reject the European values of fair trials and impartial tribunals it claims to honor. Yet to submit to the motion would be to reject that same puppet regime, the political ancestor of its current and former President, and the source of much of its governing class — not to mention the subject of a great deal of Armenian propaganda at home and abroad. It would also be forced to admit that the show trial in Nagorno-Karabakh was exactly that, further undermining its pet war crime.
Slowly but surely, a time of reckoning is approaching. Armenia can no longer safely hide behind a cloak of deniability in Nagorno-Karabakh. The small crimes highlight the larger one of the occupation; and, very soon, the excuses will run out, leaving Armenia’s wrongs recognized by the world.
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