Spring 1995 (3.1)
New Book on Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Condemns Armenia's Role
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has just published Azerbaijan: Seven Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (136 pages) concluding that Karabakh Armenian forces-often with the direct military support of the Republic of Armenia-were responsible for the majority of violations of the laws of war in fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The report was based on an extensive, month long, fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Armenia.
"While the world's focus shifted away from Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993 and 1994, violations of human rights-mostly on the part of Armenian forces-reached a record high in the under-reported conflict," commented Holly Cartner, acting Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.
Armenia's Role in War
The report outlines the immediate background to the conflict and the development of the war with particular focus on April 1993 to February 1994 when Armenians began their siege of more than 20% of Azerbaijan's territory which it now occupies. It describes the violent forced displacement of civilians, mistreatment and likely execution of prisoners, indiscriminate fire, and looting and burning of civilian homes. The report documents that Armenia has been a very active party to the conflict (a claim which Armenia has repeatedly denied) by supplying 90% of the enclave's budget in the form of interest-free credits and in actively providing military personnel, etc.
Azerbaijan's "mistreatment and possible execution of prisoners and use of indiscriminate fire against civilians especially by means of aircraft flown by foreign pilots" are also described.
The US Congress is strongly criticized for adopting a decidedly pro-Armenian position (not the role of "honest broker") and for ignoring the human rights abuses by Armenians. US Congress has denied aid to Azerbaijan via the "Freedom Support Act" of 1992, singling out Azerbaijan as the only government among the 15 former Soviet Republics to be denied financial support to rebuild their infrastructure.
To date (August 1994) according to reports gathered by Human Rights Watch, the US has provided $335 million dollars in aid to Armenia and only $25 million to Azerbaijan but only through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). And this comparatively meagre amount when Azerbaijan has to provide humanitarian and medical support for one million refugees and displaced persons in a population of 7 million. The report claims that the Clinton Administration and State Department have adopted a more balanced approach, even seeking the repeal of the Freedom Support Act restrictions on Azerbaijan.
The report accuses Russia of making weapons cheap and readily available to all combatants-Azerbaijani, Karabakh Armenian and Armenian forces and concludes that such unregulated and often criminally-negligent arms trade provides the means for serious human rights violation.
Although a frail cease-fire was achieved between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in May 1994, large, well-equipped armies still face each other over a deserted, ruined landscape in the Azeri lowlands around Karabakh. In December 1994, the OSCE (Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, formerly CSCE) decided to dispatch a multinational peacekeeping force, the specifics of which have yet to be arranged. The report calls on the OSCE to ensure that the planned peacekeeping force which is to be dispatched to Nagorno-Karabakh has neutral observers and a strong human rights mandate.
What is Human Rights Watch/Helsinki?
Human Rights Watch / Helsinki (formerly Helsinki Watch) is a non-governmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. They accept no government funds directly or indirectly. They conduct regular, systematic investigations of human rights abuses in some 70 countries around the world and address the human rights practices of governments of all political stripes, all geo-political alignments, and of all ethnic and religious persuasions.
Copies of this report may be ordered by making checks payable in US dollars to Human Rights Watch, Publications Department, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104. Tel: (212) 972-8400; Fax: (212) 972-0905; or E-mail <hrwnyc @hrw.org>. Price $12 (includes domestic shipping and handling) or $15 (international). Highly recommended.
From Azerbaijan International (3.1) Spring 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.