On August 7, 2023, a group of United Nations experts raised the alarming situation in Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of the ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor by Azerbaijan. Dr Ewelina U. Ochab, a lawyer, human rights advocate and author, wrote this in an article for Forbes magazine. She continued as follows:
As they emphasized, the blockade, which has been obstructing the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia since December 2022, has left the population facing “acute shortages of food staples, medication, and hygiene products, impacted the functioning of medical and educational institutions, and placed the lives of the residents – especially children, persons with disabilities, older persons, pregnant women, and the sick – at significant risk.” Furthermore, as hospital reserves are depleting, hospitals were struggling to provide care. The U.N. experts called upon Azerbaijan to immediately restore the free and secure movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo along the Lachin corridor, as per the ceasefire agreement of November 2020.
The Lachin Corridor has been blocked by Azerbaijani protesters since December 12, 2022, reportedly protesting about the issue of alleged illegal mining of natural resources in Nagorno-Karabakh. The protest, blocking the Lachin Corridor, halts the normal movement of people and goods in or out of the enclave, including food, fuel, and medical supplies, resulting in shortages of the products in the enclave. Eight months later, the situation of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh turned into a humanitarian emergency requiring an urgent response and Azerbaijan continues to ignore the calls to address the situation.
On December 21, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights decided to indicate to the Government of Azerbaijan, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, to take all measures that are within their jurisdiction to ensure safe passage through the Lachin Corridor of seriously ill persons in need of medical treatment in Armenia and others who were stranded on the road without shelter or means of subsistence.
In February 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, ordered provisional measures to ensure that Azerbaijan ends the blockage of the Lachin Corridor. The order, which has a binding effect, states that the Republic of Azerbaijan shall, pending the final decision in the case and in accordance with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions. Azerbaijan did not act upon the order and the Lachin Corridor continues to be blocked.
On July 30, 3023, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to express deep concern for the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Reportedly, “Secretary Blinken underscored the urgent need for free transit of commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles through the Lachin corridor, and emphasized the need for compromise on alternative routes so humanitarian supplies can reach the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.” It is not clear what was the resolution of that conversation.
On August 8, 2023, Luis Moreno Ocampo, an Argentine lawyer who served as the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, published an opinion about the blockage of the Lachin Corridor, arguing that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that a genocide is being committed against Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2023.” As he indicated, the blockade of the Lachin Corridor impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials “should be considered a genocide under Article II (c) of the [UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide] (Genocide Convention): ‘Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.’” Ocampo further added that “There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.” He called upon States to act in accordance with their duty to prevent genocide, as per Article I of the Genocide Convention.
The reports of the dire situation in Nagorno-Karabakh must be taken seriously at last and acted upon. As Nagorno-Karabakh is being starved, the international community cannot continue looking away as it has done for the last eight months. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh require urgent assistance without any further excuses.