Crimes Against Humanity- Genocides and Ethnic Cleansing

The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan held a seminar on February 20, 2018, on Crimes against Humanity: Genocides and Ethnic Cleansing. The seminar was organized to commemorate the 100th anniversary of 1918 genocide of Azerbaijanis and also 26th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, National Security Adviser was the Chief Guest at the occasion. The speakers at the seminar included H.E. Mr. Ali Alizada, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H.E. Mr. Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey and Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Welcoming the Chief Guest and the distinguished speakers, Chairman ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood highlighted the Khojaly massacre in February 1992 at the hands of the Armenians when 613 people including 106 women, 53 children and 70 older people were indiscriminately killed. He said that the extermination of Azeris by Armenia constitutes the crime of Genocide in terms of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. The plight of the Azeri people living under Armenia’s occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent seven areas also calls attention to international laws governing foreign occupation spelled out in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention along with its Additional Protocol as well as customary international law. The territories under Armenia’s occupation are an integral part of Azerbaijan, and this has been affirmed and reaffirmed in UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 as well as the 2009 UN General Assembly resolution. The Armenian forces have repeatedly grossly violated the international norms enshrined in these legal instruments.

Ambassador Mahmood said that Pakistan has always supported the just Azeri stance, and the Foreign Relations Committee of Senate and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously passed a resolution in 2012 and 2017 respectively whereby they condemned the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia and the genocide committed by Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani town of Khojalay against civilian population. Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Parliaments of Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, the Czech Republic, Sudan, Jordan, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, Slovenia and Djibouti have also recognized the crime in Khojaly as genocide from the perspective of the international legal norms.

He said that there is a marked similarity in the plight of the Azerbaijani people suffering at the hands of Armenia and the people of Kashmir in the Indian Held Kashmir groaning under the brutal repression unleashed by over 700,000 occupying Indian forces. Like Armenia, India remains in defiance of international Human Rights and Humanitarian law, particularly pertaining to foreign occupation. He said that Pakistan, and indeed all the Kashmiri people, are beholden to the people and Government of Azerbaijan for their steadfast unqualified support to their principled position on the Kahmir dispute. The same principles-sanctity of law, respect for Human Rights particularly the Right to self-determination and abidance of UN Charter and Security Council resolutions-underlie both the Kashmir Dispute and the situation of Nogorna Karabakh and other areas under Armenian occupation. This cruelty, repression and injustice cannot last, and sooner than later, justice will triumph and prevail.

Dr. Jaspal, the first speaker of the session, said that unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity can be committed even during the times of peace. He regretted that certain crimes committed within national borders are legitimate subjects of international law and adjudication. He further said that the pathetic attitude of the international community towards innocent sufferings of the people in Khojaly, Kashmir and Palestine in particular, has obliged the victims to use the tactics of the guerrilla warfare for their survival. The discriminatory attitude of the major powers further boosts the growth of the perpetrators. He submitted that if international community fails to treat the innocent people of Khojaly, Kashmir and Palestine as legitimate members of the international community, the argument of the radicalized militants or transnational terrorist’s syndicates would be strengthened even further. In order to devise a collective counter narrative against terrorists, we have to adopt indiscriminate statutes without identifying ethnicity or religion. We have to avoid selected protection of genocide and crime against humanity. Dr. Jaspal argued that if Libya can be persecuted, why Armenia can’t be punished or Modi be questioned on Kashmir? The interests of the major powers should not be the only focus of the international sensitivity.

H.E. Mr. Ali Alizada said that Khojaly massacre is a continuation of the bloodiest pages of ethnic cleansing and genocide conducted by the Armenian chauvinists and nationalists against the Azerbaijanis for the last 200 years. Even the historical museums and cultural sites have been raised to the ground with extreme cruelty. All the tragedies that have befallen Azerbaijan in the 19th and 20th centuries, accompanied by the seizure of the Turkish land, have been a conscious policy of systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing. Though the genocide is recognized by some states including the US as well, yet, the international law would remain compromised if we would continue to accept the genocides even in the modern times with the same approach. Unfortunately, the number of suffering Muslims is higher and the UN resolutions remain on paper waiting for implementation. Giving a detailed overview of the Khojaly genocide, Ambassador Alizada said that as with other such crimes, it can never be erased from history. He pointed out how the Kashmir issue also awaits justice and said that both the Khojaly and Kashmir issues should be solved in an amicable way in accordance with international laws. The past genocides and mass atrocities serve as a reminder as to what is at stake if the international community lets genocide happen again. “All the tragedies that have befallen Azerbaijan in the 19th and 20th centuries, accompanied by the seizure of our land, have been different stages of a conscious policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing systematically applied by the Armenians against the Azerbaijani people. As National Leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev said: “Khojaly massacre is continuation and the bloodiest page of the policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide continuously conducted by the Armenian chauvinists and nationalists against the Azerbaijanis over around 200 years.”

H.E. Mr. Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul, while speaking on the issue said Turkey considers the sufferings of Azerbaijan as its own and reiterated that the Turkish government supports the people of Azerbaijan in their struggle. He said that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be upheld and pressure must be built on the Armenian government to implement UNSC resolution in its full spirit. He, however, submitted that humanity is not doing enough to resonate this pain in collective memory, nor is it doing enough to prevent these crimes from taking place again. In order to resolve this issue, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be made clear first of all. He further said that the calls for engagement is falling on deaf ears on part of Armenia, since they are busy promoting a very unjust narrative of their own. He concluded by saying that this needs to be stopped and in future, the world must not witness such barbaric crimes being committed against humanity.

Lt. Gen. (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, the Chief Guest of the seminar, appreciated the efforts of the Institute and Embassy of Azerbaijan for organizing the event. While speaking on the issue, he said that the sufferings of both the people of Kashmir and Azerbaijan are very much common. Both countries share identical position on both the Nagorno-Karabakh and Kashmir conflict. He condemned all crimes against humanity and stated that more than ever before, the soldiers of today have to learn to not be unethical. He further said that Kashmir is in a constant state of unrest because the state of India is committing crimes against humanity in Kashmir on a daily basis and is testament to how strategic and economic interests can overwhelm humanity. He called for the resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance to the UN Charter and Security Council Resolutions. He also congratulated Azerbaijan on its remarkable progress across a wide spectrum in the past 25 years which bears testament to the farsightedness of its leaders.