Destruction of khachkars caused by Azerbaijan in the occupied territories of Artsakh

On May 8, 2022, in Mataghis village, occupied by Azerbaijan, a chapel built by members of the Union of Veterans of the Karabakh War and the surrounding khachkars were vandalized. The sanctuary bears the name of St. Gregory the Illuminator and was called to serve the religious soldiers and villagers. Khachkars with the names of the guys who died during the April war of 2016 were raised around the chapel. The opening and consecration ceremony of the new chapel took place in December 2017.

The video posted by user @ararathau on Twitter clearly shows how a soldier with an Azerbaijani flag first hits the Armenian khachkars with heavy stones, then kicks those to the ground. And all this is despite the fact that “Armenian cross-stones art. Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars" has been included in the List of Intangible Heritage adopted in 2003 by UNESCO since 2010.

In accordance with the provisions of the Second Protocol, adopted in 1999 as an addition to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954, all khachkar culture needs special protection, and any damage caused to that is a "serious violation”, which could be considered a war crime in international courts.

This is evidenced by the 10th article of the protocol "On the enhanced protection of cultural property" mentioned above: the cultural heritage of high importance to humanity must be under enhanced protection. In fact, since 2010, UNESCO has declared the entire culture of khachkars an exceptional value of humanity. According to Article 12 of the Protocol, in the occupied territories, the state party (Azerbaijan) must ensure the inviolability of cultural property under enhanced protection, refraining from attacking this property or turning them into an object of revenge.

Our response

In this regard, it should be mentioned that the harm caused to the cultural values ​​of any nation is a blow to the cultural heritage of all mankind since each nation has its own contribution to the world's cultural diversity. In addition, the 1st article of the Hague Convention of 1954, which is the basis of all international agreements, defines cultural property: “Regardless of their origin and owner, 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 the 4th article of the 1954 Hague Convention "On the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict", any acts of theft, robbery, or misappropriation of cultural property in any form, and any acts of vandalism are prohibited.

According to the First Protocol of the 1954 Hague Convention, it is forbidden to destroy cultural or spiritual values ​​in the occupied territory.