As of noon local time on Sunday 100,482 forcibly displaced persons from Artsakh have crossed into Armenia since the mass exodus began on Sunday, following Azerbaijan’s large-scale attack on Artsakh last week.
According to Armenian government sources, more than 21,000 vehicles crossed into Armenia.
Artsakh’s former Human Rights Defender Artak Beglaryan said in a post on Saturday that only a few hundred people remained in Artsakh. “Artsakh is completely empty,” he warned.
“Artsakh is almost fully empty with at most a few hundred people remaining, who are also leaving,” Beglaryan said.
Artsakh is almost fully empty with at most a few hundred people remaining, who are also leaving.— Artak Beglaryan | #StopArtsakhGenocide (@Artak_Beglaryan) September 30, 2023
Are intl observers going to check how the rights & security of the animals are protected by the Aliyev genocidal regime?
With strong intl guarantees people will return to their homes. pic.twitter.com/VylGCyoO2I
Legal experts are calling this forced exodus of Artsakh Armenians a war crime, while other international organizations are accusing world leaders of being complicit in Azerbaijan’s genocide of Armenians.
The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention criticized the United States for what it called Washington’s “reckless bothsideism” and its instance that the genocidal regime of President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan can engage in dialogue in good faith.
The Lemkin Institute reacted to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller’s recent statement on Nagorno-Karabakh that the US has done its best “to find a diplomatic solution, but at the end of the day, we must not forget that there are two sides here that simply have differences.”
“Demonstrating that it has learned nothing from the genocide currently being committed by Azerbaijan against the Armenians of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, the United States continues to enable the perpetrator with its reckless ‘bothsidesism’ and its delusional belief that the genocidal regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev can engage in good-faith talks or negotiations,” the Lemkin Institute said in a social media post on Thursday.
“Genocide is not a matter of ‘simply [having] differences.’ Furthermore, suggesting that the US has played no role in enabling Aliyev’s impunity to commit genocide is mendacious at best. The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention warns world leaders that they are behaving in ways that leave them open not only to charges of complicity in genocide but also to charges of aiding and abetting the crime,” the post added.
Several international legal experts believe the mass flight fits the legal definition of a war crime.
The International Criminal Court’s founding documents say that, when referring to forcible transfer or deportation, “the term ‘forcibly’ is not restricted to physical force, but may include threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power against such person or persons or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment.”
Such a “coercive environment” was created in Nagorno-Karabakh before the offensive by Azerbaijan’s obstruction of essential supplies, international lawyer Priya Pillai and Melanie O’Brien, visiting professor at the University of Minnesota and president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars told Reuters.
“So the fear/apprehension of the population – due to the coercive environment created by the months-long blockade and the recent armed attack – would meet the threshold for this crime,” Pillai said, adding that it would be a more severe ‘crime against humanity’ if considered to be part of a widespread attack.
O’Brien told Reuters that the blockade — which Baku claimed was needed to prevent weapons smuggling — was in effect the start of a genocide because it was implemented with the aim of “deliberately inflicting conditions of life designed to bring about the physical destruction of the targeted group.”
The first prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, agreed with O’Brien’s argumentation, noting that a ruling of genocide did not require mass killings.
“For me, it’s obviously a genocide,” he said.
Meanwhile Armenia’s Finance Ministry has established a treasury account for donations to meet the needs of the forcibly displaced persons Artsakh residents.
“Due to the crisis situation, numerous compatriots and organizations, both within Armenia and abroad, have expressed their willingness to offer assistance and donations to meet the basic needs of people who have been forcibly displaced from Nagorno Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia. A treasury account was opened in the Armenia’s Ministry of Finance in order to accept the donations and direct them to the socio-economic needs of the displaced persons,” an announcement on Friday said.
Individuals may make bank transfers in Armenian drams to the treasury account number 900005002762, or conduct online card transfers (in any currency) using an e-payment system.