Baroness Cox visited Artsakh in November, accompanied by Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman TatoyanDuring a debate on Thursday, Caroline Cox, a member of the British House of Lords, discussed Azerbaijan’s refusal to release Armenian prisoners of war and civilian detainees, atrocities perpetrated by Azerbaijan during the Karabakh War last fall, as well as the escalation of anti-Armenian rhetoric or Armenophobia in Azerbaijan.
Baroness Cox also presented the current situation resulting from the incursion of the Azerbaijani armed units to the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.
“I visited Karabakh during that war and witnessed the perpetration of war crimes by Azerbaijan, including the deliberate bombing of civilian targets such as the maternity hospital in Stepanakert. However, despite a ceasefire in November, there are at least four urgent concerns, which Her Majesty’s Government, unlike the Governments of France, the United States and Canada, have failed adequately to address,” said Cox.
The first, she said, is the refusal by Azerbaijan to release Armenian prisoners of war and civilian detainees who are subject to killings—including beheadings—torture and indefinite imprisonment.
Secondly, the Baroness added, there are serious concerns over the fate of hundreds of Armenian Christian monuments and cultural heritage sites, now under Azerbaijan’s control.
“There has already been footage of the jubilant destruction of a church by Azeri soldiers. Between 1997 and 2006, an estimated 28,000 Christian monuments were destroyed by Azerbaijan in the previously Armenian land of Nakhchivan,” she noted.
“Thirdly, anti-Armenian rhetoric, or Armenophobia, by the Azeri president, other officials, and across social media, has escalated, naming Armenians as pigs, dogs and brainless. This hatred has generated the creation of the Spoils of War Park in Baku; it displays mocking, humiliating mannequins of Armenian soldiers, which children are encouraged to hit, and a corridor lined with the helmets of dead Armenian soldiers,” explained Cox.
“Fourthly,” she added, “recently and very disturbingly, Azerbaijani forces have advanced into new positions along the Armenia–Azerbaijan border, away from the conflict zone, and occupied the sovereign territory of Armenia itself. This included, on 12 May, armed units advancing three to four kilometers into the Armenian province of Syunik.”
“The atrocities perpetrated by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh during the recent war have been so serious that Genocide Watch has defined them as genocide. They have largely been unrecognized by the UK, with no appropriate response. That is very dangerous because, as has been well said, every genocide which is not condemned is an encouragement to the perpetrator to continue genocidal policies with impunity,” Baroness Cox said.
She reminded that the International Association of Genocide Scholars raised similar urgent concerns in October, warning that “genocide of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and perhaps even Armenia, is a very real possibility.”
“Yet despite these warnings Her Majesty’s Government have chosen not to intervene to protect civilians. They continue to refuse to hold Turkey and Azerbaijan to account for their actions, despite clear evidence of past, recent and ongoing atrocities, choosing instead to define the crisis as a “problem on both sides”, in which Armenia is portrayed as equally guilty as Azerbaijan and Turkey. While war often involves crimes against humanity, and Armenia may have some culpability, there is absolutely no equivalence with the atrocities and war crimes perpetrated by Azerbaijan,” she stated.
“As the Armenian Foreign Minister said to us on a recent visit to Armenia: ‘Autocratic states have assessed how far they can get away with things. They have concluded that the “democratic world” is somewhere else. They have assessed the democratic world and they will therefore continue this policy, as they have learnt from this.’ There is therefore an urgent need to fulfill the commitment in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech to uphold human rights and to alleviate human suffering for the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia,” Caroline Cox said.
In response to Cox’s concerns,Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, known as Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, repeated the false parity often voiced by the UK government, saying, “we are well aware of the allegations from both sides that war crimes have been committed. We have urged relevant authorities to investigate and understand the situation on the ground.”