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ICJ orders Armenia and Azerbaijan to prevent racial hatred, but declines specific requests

9 December 2021
International Court of Justice logo.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Armenia and Azerbaijan to prevent the incitement of ‘racial hatred’, as rulings were delivered in two opposing cases submitted by the respective countries.  The court declined the two countries’ specific requests and did not order the release of prisoners of war or the handover of landmine maps by Armenia.

The 7 December ICJ rulings often differed by only a few words. In both cases the Hague-based court ordered that Azerbaijan and Armenia ‘take all necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred and discrimination’ — in Azerbaijan’s case ‘including by its officials and public institutions’, and in Armenia’s case ‘including by organisations and private persons on its territory’ — against Armenians and Azerbaijanis, respectively. 

The status of sites of Armenian cultural heritage in Azerbaijan was also covered by the court’s ruling, which ordered Azerbaijan to protect such places from ‘vandalism and desecration’ and ‘punish’ perpetrators.

The court also called on both countries to ‘refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve’.

The ICJ did not rule according to the specific requests made by Armenia and Azerbaijan. While it ordered Azerbaijan to ‘protect from violence and bodily harm’ all Armenian prisoners of war, and to ‘ensure their security and equality before the law’, it stopped short of ordering their release.

‘Armenia has not placed before the Court evidence indicating that these persons continue to be detained by reason of their national or ethnic origin’, the ruling reads.

At the same time, the court also did not issue any order to Armenia prohibiting the use of landmines or necessitating that it hand over landmine maps to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s legal team has argued that Armenia had used landmines as ‘a longstanding campaign of ethnic cleansing’. 

The court ruled that Azerbaijan did not provide evidence that proved that Armenia’s use of landmines has  ‘the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing’ of the rights of Azerbaijani ethnicity or nationality. 

Government officials in both countries declared that the rulings vindicated their respective positions. 

Following the publication of the Court’s decisions, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which they said that Azerbaijan is ‘committed to its obligations under international conventions’ and that it ‘will continue to demand that Armenia be held accountable for violations of international law’. 

The Armenian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, stated that ‘Armenia will consistently pursue Azerbaijan’s compliance with the Court’s orders, and will inform the Court of any violation’.

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