ECHR judgment: New stage in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement - ANALYSIS
What is special about the decision is also the fact that it was the fist court document approved on the conflict. For the first time in the conflict’s history, the world’s most reliable court passed a judgment on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the fact of Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani territories is confirmed by the instance of the international court.
Such a judgment from the ECHR, which recognizes the right of Azerbaijani IDPs to live in their lands and use their property, increased capabilities of Azerbaijani diplomacy. Having so far used the 4 UN resolutions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Baku will now be able to present the ECHR judgment as a legal document in negotiations over the settlement of the conflict.
The ECHR judgment is important from several points of view.
First, with its judgment the European Court of Human Rights proved and confirmed Armenia with legal bases as an occupying state. The judgment also confirmed that Armenia exercises effective control over the occupied territories and by this means Yerevan’s decades-old policy of introducing the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as a conflicting side was left in archive. The court considers that despite Armenia claiming the opposite, it’s the Armenian armed forces that maintain effective control over the occupied zone, and any action taken by the opposite side in the active military zone with Azerbaijan belongs to Armenia, not the “NKR”. The decision that Armenia is responsible for the violation of human rights in occupied Azerbaijani territories is because the effective control on those territories is carried out by Armenia. The court also based its decision on the rules of defining an occupation factor in international law and according to these rules, effective control is considered to be the main feature of an invasion. Facts like Armenia’s annual exercises in the occupied territories, military training of Armenian citizens in the invasion zone, illegal military formations Armenia present as the “NKR self-defense forces” were included in the decision and Armenia’s effective control on those territories is implied. The judgment, according to the international legal norms, confirms Armenia as an occupying country.
Second, the ECHR judgment limits Armenia’s ability to maneuver in the settlement process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ensuring the unconditional return of IDPs to their homes is an obligation determined by the court decision, and Armenia will not be able to put forward its obligations in the negotiations as a condition.
Third, the court rests the full reasonability on Armenia for human rights violations in the occupied territories. This means that Armenia should to restore human rights violated in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts. For this, Armenia first of all should put an end to the fact of occupation that led to massive violations of human rights in the occupied territories. Moreover, the ECHR judgment imposes an obligation on Armenia for unconditional withdrawal of its troops from the invasion zone. If, during the negotiations on the settlement of the conflict, Armenia has put forward a number of conditions for the withdrawal of troops from the occupied territories (all these conditions are intended for the legitimization of the separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh), after the ECHR judgment Armenia bears responsibility for withdrawal of its troops. There is another issue that is worth paying attention to. The UN resolutions also demand the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories, but Yerevan, referring to the fact that resolutions do not specifically point out Armenia and “NKR” as an occupying side, was able to hold maneuvers. But the judgment also deprives Armenia of maneuvering ability.
Fourth, with a judgment on the case entitled “Chiragov and others versus Armenia”, the European Court of Human Rights internationally recognized the rights of Azerbaijanis, displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, to live in their own lands and use their property. These rights were for the first time recognized by not a political decision, but by the highest judicial body in the world. The recognition of these rights will automatically bring up the issue of Armenia’s paying compensation Azerbaijani internally displaced persons in the next stage. Under the procedure, a year is given to the plaintiff and Armenian government for the amount and payment of compensation, and in this period the sides should substantiate their financial claims, approval or rejection of them. In any case, Armenia have to pay compensation to the plaintiffs under the case entitled “Chiragov and others versus Armenia” within a year. The payment process will set a precedent for 800,000 IDPs’ filing material litigation against Armenia. The judgment on the case entitled “Chiragov and others versus Armenia” is regarded as a precedent, thus the ECHR is not likely to pass a different judgment on material claims of other Azerbaijani IDPs against Armenia.
Fifth, the judgment on the case “Chiragov and others versus Armenia” provides advantage to Azerbaijan on the settlement process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This advantage is due to the court’s formal recognition of the ethnic cleansing conducted by the aggressor country in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts. The ECHR regarded the mass expulsion of the Azerbaijani people from the areas being under the effective control of the Armenian armed forces as ethnic cleansing. It should be noted that ethnic cleansing is considered a grave crime against humanity, and with this judgment of the ECHR, Azerbaijan got the opportunity to bring a suit against Armenia in higher and greater courts. Moreover, Azerbaijan has the right to put forward a claim before the Council of Europe and other political institutions to force Armenia to accept the jurisdiction of The Hague Court, or make this claim as one of the key priorities of its foreign policy.
Apparently, the ECHR judgment opened a new stage in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This stage will enable to change the status quo in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This judgment will weaken Armenia's position in OSCE Minsk Group talks as it drew a thick line on false arguments that Yerevan intended use in the talks.
Vugar Masimoglu, APA Analytic Center
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