Former ICC Chief Prosecutor warns of possible genocide against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, urges international community to act to avert humanitarian disaster

NEW YORK — Former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno Ocampo issued a dire warning that there is a “reasonable basis to believe that genocide is being committed against Armenians” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreno Ocampo’s alarming assessment comes as tensions continue to escalate between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested territory.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked enclave located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, is home to a significant Armenian population but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The region has been a focal point of conflict between the two nations for decades.

In a comprehensive expert opinion letter delivered on Monday, Moreno Ocampo highlighted the insidious nature of the alleged genocide, stating:

“There are no crematories and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.”

The former ICC prosecutor, who served until 2012, emphasized the urgency of the situation, drawing attention to the stark humanitarian crisis unfolding within the Nagorno-Karabakh region. UN experts have also expressed deep concern about the dire conditions on the ground, urging Azerbaijan to lift a seven-month-long blockade on the Lachin Corridor — the vital road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Armenia has urgently requested the Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to address the worsening humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian UN Ambassador Mher Margarian highlighted the looming risk of a severe humanitarian catastrophe in his communication to the Security Council President on 11 August.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a press release appealing for immediate action to address the escalating humanitarian catastrophe. “The blockade of the Lachin Corridor is a humanitarian emergency that has created severe shortages of essential food staples including sunflower oil, fish, chicken, dairy products, cereal, sugar, and baby formula,” the UNHCR stated. The agency further highlighted the rapid depletion of crucial medical supplies.

In accordance with the ceasefire agreement of November 2020, the UNHCR called on Azerbaijan to fulfill its international obligations to uphold human rights and to permit the free flow of humanitarian aid through the Lachin Corridor. Additionally, the agency called upon Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in the region to ensure the corridor’s protection.

The dire circumstances in Nagorno-Karabakh were brought to the forefront during a recent UN Security Council meeting on 3 August 3. Vahe Gevorgyan, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia, underscored the harrowing impact of the blockade, saying that approximately 2,000 pregnant women, 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly individuals, and 9,000 persons with disabilities were adversely affected.

The international community has responded with increasing concern. In July, Josep Borrell, the European Union foreign policy chief, issued a statement expressing deep apprehension about the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Borrell emphasized the responsibility of Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee safety and freedom of movement along the Lachin Corridor to prevent the crisis from further escalation.

The United States has also engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the crisis. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed his profound concern to Azerbaijan’s president, urging the immediate resumption of free transit for commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles through the Lachin Corridor.