A group of experts have issued a statement about the distortions of the Alma-Ata Declaration and the consequences of legal arbitrariness. The statement reads as follows:
On September 19, the Azerbaijani armed forces launched a massive shelling of Stepanakert and other cities of Nagorno-Karabakh using artillery and UAVs during a large-scale aggression. In order to prevent further escalation of hostilities and save the lives of civilians, the President of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) was forced to fulfill the ultimatum demand of Azerbaijan and sign an illegal decree on the termination of its existence from January 1, 2024.
This was one of the main results of the three-year processes for the implementation of the truce conditions contained in the trilateral Statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia (dated 09.11.2020) concluded after the aggression of Azerbaijan against the NKR and the Republic of Armenia (RA) in 2020.
The actions of Azerbaijan preceding this decree – the 44-day war in 2020, the 280-day blockade of all transport communications connecting the NKR with the outside world, the large-scale military aggression on September 19, 2023, accompanied by violence, killings of civilians, including children and the elderly, and other acts of vandalism – indicate deliberate acts aimed at genocide by expelling Armenians who have been living in their native land for thousands of years. Today, almost all the surviving population has left the NKR.
What happened also characterizes the results of the negotiation processes that took place between the parties to the conflict on the Russian, American and Brussels platforms, and were accompanied by optimistic statements and calls for the protection of the rights and safety of the Karabakh Armenians. The measures stipulated by the international obligations of the UN member states to prevent the Armenian Genocide of Karabakh were not applied against the criminal acts of Azerbaijan. The UN Security Council, having considered at an emergency meeting the issue of the humanitarian catastrophe in Nagorno-Karabakh, limited itself to calls for restraint and respect for human rights addressed to the aggressor and his victim.
In order to “justify” such inaction, the texts and meaning of key concepts contained in international documents referred to by the leaders of states and the heads of their foreign policy departments pursuing their geopolitical goals were distorted. As a legal “justification”, they turn to the Alma-Ata Declaration (21.12.1991) of the newly independent states formed as a result of the liquidation of the USSR. It is claimed, as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently stated in the European Parliament, that the republics that allegedly signed this declaration “recognize the territorial integrity, sovereignty of each other, the inviolability of existing, i.e. administrative borders, and, consequently, the existing administrative borders between the republics of the Soviet Union become state borders.” Similar references to the Alma-Ata Declaration were once made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Head of the European Council Sh. Michel and others.
Meanwhile, recognition and respect for the territorial integrity of the States that signed the Alma-Ata Declaration is associated in it with the inviolability of the borders existing precisely at the time of signing the document, and not the administrative borders of the former Soviet Union republics, which are not mentioned at all in the declaration. It is important to note that the absence of mention of the administrative borders of the former Soviet republics is due to the fact that by the time this declaration was signed, the borders of some states that became independent as a result of the collapse of the USSR no longer, de facto or de jure, coincided with the administrative borders of the Union republics. There are no figures in the text of the declaration defining the territory of the signatory States. There is not a single line in the text of the declaration that the existing administrative boundaries between the republics of the Soviet Union become state borders. Azerbaijan seceded from the USSR with gross violations of the current legislation, rejecting the succession of the Azerbaijani SSR, de facto and de jure without the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO). This gave the NKAO the right, in accordance with the laws of the USSR and the provisions of international law, to independently dispose of its future fate by creating an independent state entity.
When referring to the Alma-Ata Declaration, its provisions on the right of peoples to self-determination, renunciation of the use of force and the threat of force, economic and any other methods of pressure, peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for human rights and freedoms, including the rights of national minorities, conscientious implementation of obligations and other generally recognized principles and norms of international law, which Azerbaijan has flagrantly violated.
Distortions and arbitrary interpretation of the key concepts of the declaration and statements based on them by the leaders of Armenia, the European Union and some countries, international organizations involved in the conflict management process are taking place against the background of the deaths of thousands of civilians. Hundreds of innocent people are missing, and an unknown number of people are being tortured and ill-treated in the dungeons of hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan. Representatives of the military-political leadership of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have been abducted and arrested for the purpose of conducting illegal trials in the future. A threatening precedent is being created for equating peoples fighting for self-determination, participating in national liberation movements with terrorist entities, and on the other hand for encouraging criminal acts (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity) under the false cover of territorial integrity.
Another consequence of such distortions was a direct threat to the territorial integrity of Armenia. Modern Azerbaijan makes claims that have no legal basis to the territories of the Republic of Armenia, calling them “enclaves”. If we adhere to the Alma-Ata Declaration, neither the so-called “enclaves” nor the territory of the NKR, according to the declaration, were located within the “existing borders” of the Republic of Azerbaijan which signed this document. Aliev threatens to open the extraterritorial “Zangezur Corridor” through the southern Syunik Armenian region by force, calling it “Western Azerbaijan”. All these illegal demands are accompanied by the direct use of force, the occupation of the sovereign territory of Armenia in 2021 and 2022, periodic shelling of border posts and villages, which resulted in the death of hundreds of people. Azerbaijan’s criminal actions pose a real threat to the security not only of the South Caucasus, but also of the explosive Middle East region.
We appeal to the leaders of the countries, the leaders of the European Union, their respective structures, and parliamentarians to give an adequate assessment of the legal grounds for the self-determination of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in their native land, condemn the criminal acts of Azerbaijan. It is necessary to take decisive measures in support of the NKR Armenians, apply sanctions to the state that subjected the people to aggression and genocide.
We call on international organizations, political and legal institutions and organizations dealing with the protection of human rights, political and public figures, and the expert community to raise their voice against political manipulation, which must be immediately identified at all levels and suppressed in order to prevent legal arbitrariness and its disastrous consequences.
Larisa Alaverdyan, The first Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, “Foundation Against the Violation of Law” NGO, Executive Director
Mihran Shahzadeyan, Ph. D, Chairman of the Board of the Armenian Association of Political Scientists
Aram Sargsyan, Coordinator of the “MIASIN” (Together) movement, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Armenia
Alexander Manasyan, Doctor of Philosophies Sciences, Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Co-chairman of the Armenian Association of Political Scientists
Gevorg Danielyan, Doctor of Law, former Minister of Justice of Armenia
Atom Mkhitaryan, Dean of the International Scientific and Educational Center of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Co-chairman of the Armenian Association of Political Scientists.
Harut Sassounian, Master’s in International Affairs, Publisher, The California Courier—USA
Winfried Dallmann, Dr. scient., associate professor, Tromsø, Norway
Tessa Hofmann, PhD, German scholar of Armenian and Genocide studies, research scholar at the Free University of Berlin
Vahan Babakhanyan Chairman of the ”Public organization of sociological and political science initiatives “Crossroad,” Saint Petersburg
Mikhail Vladimirovich Alexandrov, Doctor of Political Sciences, Moscow
Sven Erik Rise, Masters` Degree, Norway
Sarkis Mesrobian, Doctor of Sciences, Chairman of the Pan Armenian Nation Emergency Committee, USA
Dr. rer. nat. Gerayer Koutcharian, human rights activist, Berlin