Azerbaijan destroyed the church of Surb Sargis in Mokhrenes village

When studying satellite imagery published on October 11 by the team of the "Caucasus Heritage Watch" project of Cornell University, USA, it became evident that Azerbaijan completely destroyed the church of Surb Sargis in the village of Mokhrenes, Hadrut region, Artsakh. This research initiative for monitoring of cultural heritage of Artsakh, in its Twitter post, emphasizes that the destruction of Surb Sargis Church is the first serious violation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provisional measure made on December 7, 2021 that obliged Azerbaijan to “prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage…”.

The statement emphasizes that the policy pursued by Azerbaijan leads to an aggravation of the atmosphere of hate and intolerance between peoples and does not contribute to the restoration of lasting peace in the region. As a result of the tripartite declaration signed on November 9, 2020, the Church of St. Sargis came under the control of Azerbaijan. Surb Sargis Church was a single-nave vaulted rectangular hall. The temple was built from local white limestone with lime mortar. The location of the church on a steep slope caused the north-eastern part to outwardly stick into the ground. The entrance had an emphasized dimensional solution: huge polished column bases and semi-columns; sculptured capitals, and an arch, a wide tympanum.   Estimated time of construction - 18-19th centuries.

The condition of the church before and after the 44-day war was described by the group of “Monitoring the Cultural Heritage of Artsakh” (for more details, see the Church of St. Sargis in Mokhrenes).

It should be recalled that the report of CHW, documenting the destruction of the church, was submitted to the European Parliament and has already been condemned by a number of deputies. As strong evidence of the ongoing policy of Azerbaijan, it was included in the report "New European Agenda for Culture and International Cultural Relations", which, on the one hand, condemned Azerbaijan for such practices, and on the other hand, showed the negative consequences of such practices in the field of world cultural policy.

Our response

The destruction of the Church of St. Sargis once again proves that Azerbaijan is not going to stop acts of vandalism directed against the Armenian cultural heritage. It is worth recalling that the damage caused to the cultural values ​​of each nation is a threat to the cultural heritage of all mankind, because each nation contributes to the world's cultural diversity. According to The Hague Convention of 1954, which is also the basis of other international treaties, and its first article, cultural property is “movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular”.

According to Article 4 of The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict, any acts of vandalism, theft, robbery, misappropriation, hostility and revenge against cultural heritage are prohibited. According to the First Protocol of The 1954 Hague Convention, it is forbidden to destroy cultural or spiritual property in the occupied territories.