Thirty years ago, during these very days in February 1988 anti-Armenian pogroms broke out in Azerbaijani Sumgait leaving numerous Armenians killed, maimed and deported, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said, addressing the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
“They were perpetrated by the authorities of Azerbaijan with the aim to punish Armenians for the peaceful aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination,” Minister Nalbandian stated.
Below is Edward Nalbandian’s speech in full:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I congratulate Ambassador Vojislav Šuc on his election as President of the Human Rights Council and wish success in his mission.
This year we mark the 70th anniversaries of two fundamental documents in the field of human rights protection, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The Universal Declaration is widely acknowledged as a milestone document in the history of human rights. Nevertheless, its provisions have not only been continuously ignored, but grossly violated in many parts of the world.
Thirty years ago, during these very days in February 1988 anti-Armenian pogroms broke out in Azerbaijani Sumgait leaving numerous Armenians killed, maimed and deported. They were perpetrated by the authorities of Azerbaijan with the aim to punish Armenians for the peaceful aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination. Those atrocities were the very reason why Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov wrote that “even if some doubted it before Sumgait, no one sees a moral opportunity to insist on territorial unity of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan after this tragedy happened.”
The Sumgait massacre was widely condemned by the international community, including by the resolution of the European Parliament. Regrettably, the masterminds and perpetrators of this crime were not duly punished. As it happened many times in the human history, impunity opened the door for new atrocities, including Armenian massacres and ethnic cleansing in Baku, Kirovabad (Gandzak), Maragha and many other places.
By all means Azerbaijan attempts to conceal these atrocities, to avoid responsibility and to shift attention from them through fabricated accusations, including by the so-called Khojaly campaign, trying to portray themselves as victims and discredit Armenians as alleged perpetrators of the violence.
It is a part of Azerbaijan’s xenophobic anti-Armenian policy. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance and many other organizations in charge of human rights expressed concern at constant cases of hate speech in Azerbaijan used against Armenians by political leaders, educational institutions and media and that an entire generation of Azerbaijanis has grown up listening to this hateful rhetoric. It is this kind of anti-Armenian propaganda that has incited continuous atrocities against Armenians, including the gross violations of international humanitarian law committed by the armed forces of Azerbaijan in April 2016 in Nagorno-Karabakh – killing of children, women, elderly people, mutilation of the corpses, beheadings of captured soldiers in the style used by notorious terrorist organizations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When there is an imminent threat to life the unhindered access of the relevant United Nations agencies and special procedures, provision of humanitarian assistance to the people residing in conflict areas gains utmost significance.
It is perplexing that the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes are consulted for their consent on the engagement of international organizations and the provision of the humanitarian assistance. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh should not be deprived from cooperation with the human rights’ organizations due to the objection of Azerbaijan, a country notorious for the violations of the very human rights.
Universal Declaration stipulates that the realization of the individual and collective human rights and fundamental freedoms must not be dependent on the status of the territory where peoples live. This should serve as a guiding principle for all those who are committed to the universal application of the Declaration without leaving any grey zones where the people are deprived from the international assistance in exercising their rights. Belated reaction, delayed assessment of the situation, the absence of preventive measures – constitute gaps between proclaimed commitments and their implementation on the ground. Indeed, “a right delayed is a right denied.”
I want to recall the words of Eleanor Roosevelt one of the authors of the Universal Declaration “we could not have peace, or an atmosphere in which peace could grow, unless we recognize the rights of individual human beings”.
In 2015 upon the initiative of Armenia the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a unanimous Resolution on the Genocide Prevention. In its development, again upon our initiative, the UN General Assembly assigned December 9th as an International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Genocide. As recently the United Nations Under Secretary General Mr. Michael Møller stated, “Armenia has become a leading voice for safeguarding the importance of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”.
What is happening in front of our eyes in different parts of the world, related to the identity-based crimes against ethnic and religious groups vividly manifests that the world is not immune from this “odious scourge” and that it remains imperative to redouble the international efforts aimed at reinvigoration of the prevention agenda.
During this session of the Human Rights Council Armenia presents a resolution on Genocide Prevention which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Convention with specific recommendations for actions and reflect on the activities of the UN and its member states in this regard. On December 9th we will host the Third International Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide in Yerevan. It will stand as a solid platform for manifestation of our collective resolve against the recurrences of this heinous crime, for raising awareness and promoting education for the prevention of Genocides.
Armenia continues to implement National Plan of Action for Human Rights Protection, the main objective of which is to formulate a unified policy document in the area of human rights protection. We have a good record of submissions of national and follow-up reports to the UN treaty bodies. Armenia supports the Universal Periodic Review process and we are going to submit our UPR second mid-term report on a voluntary basis.
Our country is completing its transition to parliamentary system of governance. Throughout the whole process of transition including the Constitutional referendum, the subsequent amendments of the key laws in Armenia and the parliamentary elections were conducted in an inclusive manner, in close cooperation with our international partners and have demonstrated that the progress achieved in upholding fundamental freedoms is sustainable and irreversible.
We will continue the reform process in our country also making use of the good offices provided by our partners, including the United Nations.
Mr. President, I would like to assure of Armenia’s continued commitment for the further consolidation of democratic institutions, rule of law, strengthening of judiciary, good governance, which remain high among our priorities.