Acting in the face of the risk of famine, ethnic cleansing and even genocide.
The humanitarian situation has become dramatic for the Armenian population of Artsakh, victim of a total blockade by Azerbaijan, which has cut off the only access route to Armenia, the Latchine corridor, as well as the regular supply of gas and electricity.
Until now, the Russian peacekeeping contingent has been supplying the population since December 22, and the ICRC has been bringing in medicines and evacuating the seriously ill to Armenia.
Since June 15, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has decided to impose a total blockade, thereby accelerating a humanitarian crisis which he is using as a weapon of war. This is his response to the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to the many countries and organizations calling for the Latchine corridor to be reopened in accordance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
At a time when the population is suffering from multiple shortages, a supply convoy carrying 361 tonnes of essential goods (1) has been immobilized since July 26 near the village of Kornidzor at the entrance to the corridor.
Trucks blocked at the entrance to the Lachine corridor. Twitter: @Anne_Hidalgo
This has also been the case since August 31 for the convoy of 10 trucks of essential humanitarian goods sent by local authorities in France (2) at the call of the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, with Xavier Bertrand, President of the Grand Est Region, and Bruno Retailleau, President of the LR group in the Senate, accompanied by a dozen elected representatives and the Artsakh representative in France, Hovhannès Guevorkian.
The humanitarian situation of the population is deteriorating dangerously, and time is running out.
The already difficult humanitarian situation is now deteriorating very rapidly for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh, including 20,000 elderly people, 30,000 children, 2,000 pregnant women, 9,000 disabled people, 4,700 people suffering from diabetes and 8,450 people suffering from cardiovascular disease, as Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ararat Mirzoyan, stated at the United Nations Security Council meeting devoted to Artsakh on August 16.
Speaking at the meeting, Ms Edem Worsonu, Director of Operations and Communications at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said: “International humanitarian law is very clear. The parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to all civilians in need”.
The total blockade of Azerbaijan is doing exactly the opposite, as no humanitarian organization is able to bring relief to an isolated population in urgent daily need. The ICRC, the only organization authorized to operate, has seen its work abruptly halted. The last delivery of medicines was on July 7, and food on June 14.
Artsakh human rights defender Gegham Stepanian recently published a report (3). Public health is dangerously deteriorating, as infant formula runs out, medical establishments suffer constant power cuts, and cases of anaemia continue to rise among pregnant women. Agriculture, the main activity, is severely affected by the lack of fuel, fertilizer and feed for livestock, and by the regular firing from Azerbaijani positions, which prohibits harvesting, as happened only recently in the village of Sarushen. Even drinking water supplies are dwindling due to fuel shortages, and intestinal infections among children are on the increase. Waste collection is reaching a “dangerously critical point”, cases of leishmaniasis have doubled, and the absence of public transport will make it impossible for some 20,000 students to return to school.
Avoid the worst now!
For humanitarians, far from any political considerations, the only worthwhile cause is that of saving lives in danger by avoiding the downward spiral of the worst that is underway, according to many observers and eyewitness accounts. The dilemma for humanitarian actors is that they are prevented from helping the population of Artsakh, since Azerbaijan has denied them access.
Far from resigning themselves to the situation, humanitarians can mobilize through strong and rapid advocacy to obtain the dispatch of an international mission to assess the humanitarian needs of the population and the reopening of the Latchine corridor. They can also prepare to help when the corridor finally opens under growing international pressure.
In the name of the duty to protect, humanitarians have not let anyone down in Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mali, Libya or Syria, and even in North Korea. They can do the same for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh threatened by starvation and abandonment.
According to a recent report by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the spiral unleashed by Azerbaijan represents a genocidal threat. He adds: “Without immediate radical change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a matter of weeks”. The UN’s International Court of Justice made no mistake when, on July 6, it once again called on Azerbaijan to ensure “… the unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and goods along the Latchine corridor in both directions”, as did numerous countries and international organizations, including the European Union, through its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell.
The delegation of French elected representatives in front of one of the trucks supplying essential goods.At the French Ambassadors’ Conference in Paris at the end of August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that “we will again take a diplomatic initiative in this direction on an international level”. How can we not expect the Latchine corridor to be reopened to humanitarian aid?
The stakes are high, as there are only two possible options in the face of the accelerating deterioration in the living conditions of the people of Artsack. Is it the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev who will impose a lasting blockade with all its disastrous consequences, or is it all those who demand respect for International Humanitarian Law to save the population from a famine that could resemble that practised by Stalin in the years 1932-1033 in Ukraine under the name of Holodomor!
Today, time is running out for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh. Diplomacy’s time is running out. It must succeed to avoid the worst to come and preserve peace. Without rapid humanitarian aid for Artsakh, not only will there be no peace, but war will undoubtedly return. Conversely, reopening the corridor to humanitarian aid is a prerequisite for a peaceful political solution negotiated within an international framework.
After the genocide in Rwanda, who today would be prepared to take responsibility for a famine followed by ethnic cleansing and a possible genocide of the Armenians in Artsakh?
President of Défis Humanitaires
- This convoy of 19 supply trucks contains foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products, including 60 tonnes of powdered sugar, 40 tonnes of oil, 100 tonnes of flour, 80 tonnes of pasta and starch, 20 tonnes of salt, 40 tonnes of powdered milk, 12 tonnes of infant food and 9 tonnes of medicines.
- Joint statement to the President of the Republic calling on France to support the Armenians of Artsakh
- Report in English on the humanitarian situation of the Artsakh Human Rights Defender
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