On the 20th anniversary of the Azeri massacres of Armenians in the Maragha village north of Mardakert, Panorama.am interviewed Baroness Cox, who went to the village a day later in 1992 and witnessed first-hand what she called “cold blooded slaughter of civilians.”
Below we present this important interview, thanking our colleagues at panorama.am.
Panorama.am: You went to Maragha village right after the mass atrocities of April 10, 1992 – 20 years ago, when the village and its inhabitants were wiped out by the Azeri militia and the army. Do you have any untold memories to share?
Baroness Cox: Indeed, too many memories. We were in Stepanakert [then], and we heard there was an attack on the village, called Maragha. We immediately went out there on the day itself. Homes were still burning, still smoldering. We saw the evidence of the atrocities which had been carried out. I saw human bodies, beheaded. We had to do very unhappy thing of asking the local villagers if they would mind us to take photographic evidence of the bodies that they started to bury… I have one in front of me at the moment… And I also have a photograph in front of me of a villager holding an ear of his Armenian friend, which had been cut off by Azeris. So the horror was there. We also met some women, who survived, with photographs of their loved ones taken from their smoldering homes in order to have memories of their families who perished…
Panorama.am: I want to ask you to touch upon the international campaign of the governments of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh to bring in international outcry on the atrocity. What has been done so far, and what do you think should be done in this regards?
Baroness Cox: Ever since I witnessed the atrocities of what happened in Maragha, I have been urging the Armenian Government and [Nagorno] Karabakh Government to get the story told to the international community, to raise this as a really serious example of Azeri crimes against humanity. What happened in Maragha was a serious [crime] in terms of cold blooded slaughter of civilians with decapitation and burning.
The Government of Nagorno Karabakh has indeed published an account of what happened in Maragha. I think the Governments of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh should make efforts to place it on the news screens of international community: it was an absolutely horrendous, cold blooded crime, a deliberate slaughter of innocent civilians in a brutal way. And I think the Armenian Government really should be making it an international issue, and taking Azerbaijan into international arena, to get this horrible situation on the record, and Azerbaijan called to international accountability.
What happened in Maragha is an untold truth, and needs to be told both for justice and for the people of Maragha who suffered so much, their survivors shall know that justice is served, and Azerbaijan to be brought to account for that apparent crime against humanity.
Panorama.am: Following up on what you just said, considering there was no “military necessity” to wage an attack on Maragha, and it was quite far from where the war was taking place, can we claim it was a war crime and/or a crime against humanity, as you phrased it?
Baroness Cox: It is certain that what I saw was clearly an apparent crime against humanity, which needs investigation. I saw a bloody slaughter against innocent civilians, innocent villagers. Armenia really needs to make a case for recognition of that as a crime against humanity.
Panorama.am: Few days ago when the Armenian parliament members were visiting Baku for Euronest part session, Mr. Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, called them “fascists”. In an earlier statement he proclaimed “Armenians world over are the number one enemy of Azerbaijan.” Judging from the current totalitarian regime of Mr. Aliyev and his family, do you think international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the best measure toward the prevention of new atrocities?
Baroness Cox: I think there are the “Madrid Principles,” which are on the table, which I think is agreed by the international community as an appropriate way forward. They would give the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh the right to self determination and for secession, and it should be internationally recognized in the same way as other valid recognitions of the right of self determination and secession have been granted to the people that had been subjected or attempted to ethnic cleansing. There is no doubt that Azerbaijan had the intent upon ethnic cleansing upon the Armenians living in Nagorno Karabakh. The President [Abdulfaz] Elchibey once said his “famous” statement that if a single Armenian was left alive in Karabakh by next October, then the people of Azerbaijan could take him and hang him at the center square of Baku. This was a pretty forceful statement of ethnic cleansing. The whole policy of the Operation “Ring” was a tacit example of ethnic cleansing. So they have the right, I believe, for self determination and secession, the same was as any other minority group in a country where the regime of that country is trying to exterminate them physically and culturally.
Panorama.am: The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) report last year alarmed, that it’s unsafe to show Armenian identity in Azerbaijan, as the person would risk getting into huge troubles, to put it in a smooth way. What steps shall the international community undertake for easing the human rights and freedoms issue there, and eventually – for denazification of Azerbaijan?
Baroness Cox: Well, I think, Azerbaijan is a country that carries out oppressive measures such as, as we all know, inhibitions on the freedom of speech. I think, there has been somebody who tried to tell the truth about Khojaly, and he had been imprisoned. Any attempt of inhibition of telling the truth is a fundamental violation of the fundamental human right of freedom of speech. Any country which contravenes those fundamental human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should be called into account, and there should be measures taken against this. So I think there need to be recognition, and much more robust calling into account to Azerbaijan for its human rights violations against its own people today, who are suffering an absence of any respect toward their human rights. Azerbaijan human rights record is extremely unsatisfactory.