Cultural vandalism in St. Yeghisha Church of Mataghis

A video record was spread on the Internet, where St. Yeghisha Church of Mataghis fell victim to the desecration by the Azerbaijani vandals. In the video material shot by the Azerbaijanis, three men in Azerbaijani military uniforms enter an Armenian church and announce that they intend to perform namaz there. One of them has a logo with Turkish and Azerbaijani flags on his clothes. Men curse, break icons.

The vandalism of Azerbaijan acted against the cultural heritage of St. Yeghisha of Mataghis is prohibited by a number of provisions of the Hague-Geneva conventions on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed clashes and relevant protocols. Article 4 of the 1954 Hague Convention for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” prohibits any act of vandalism, theft, robbery or embezzlement and imposes an absolute ban on acts of retaliation against cultural property. The Second Hague Protocol of 1999, which is also in force in the event of non-international (ethnic) conflicts, prohibits any act of hostility and retaliation against inheritance, which is classified as an international crime under Article 15. In addition, according to the Geneva First Protocol of the Convention of 12 August 1949, Article 53 states: “Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention of May 14, 1954, it is prohibited to carry out any hostile action against cultural heritage, to use it for military purposes, or make it a subject of retaliation”. According to the UNESCO Convention on the “Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage”, any destruction or intentional damage to cultural heritage is also prohibited. The Bonn Declaration condemns all damage to cultural property and prohibits all acts of vandalism. We should also recall the UN Secretary-General’s August 6, 1999 Bulletin, which “prohibits attacks on the cultural heritage, any act of theft, robbery, embezzlement or vandalism, as well as any act of revenge against such a legacy”.  In addition, by targeting the cross and the culture of khachkar, which are considered a symbol of the Christian heritage of the Armenians of Artsakh, Azerbaijan violates the provisions of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the “Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage”, as well as the 2001 Convention for the “Protection of Cultural Diversity” and the 2005 Convention for the “Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of the Forms of Cultural Self-Expression”. Such a policy is discriminatory, violating the freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the legacy created by that freedom. The desecration of the monument of Aknaghbyur is a discriminatory treatment of the religious heritage of the Armenians of Artsakh, also protected by Article 5 of the UN Convention on the “Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”, which mentions that states must respect the right to inherit, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to freedom of belief and expression, cultural rights and the legacy created as a result of the exercise of those rights. And Article 7 obliges to carry out a fight against discriminatory attitude. Performance of namaz in St. Yeghisha Church violates the function of the intangible practice of the Christian heritage of Artsakh, the change of which is tantamount to the destruction of the heritage, as it can destroy the knowledge and history related to the heritage, which convey meaning and value to it, as well as the events, ceremonies and rites.