Addressing the theme of the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage by Azerbaijan in the occupied territories of Artsakh in the annual report of the US Department of State Committee on Religious Freedoms for 2021

In April 2022, in the annual report of the International Committee on Religious Freedom of the US Department of State, assessed the religious freedom in Azerbaijan in 2021 generally as negative, including the problems of protecting religious and cultural heritage (destruction, elimination and falsification of the historical facts) in Artsakh (according to the document - Nagorno Karabakh), the state of which has become more alarming in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan as a result of the ceasefire signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020.

Although the Azerbaijani media have recently spared no effort to distort the entire content of the report by spreading disinformation, nevertheless, both in the short and full text of the report, the destruction of Armenian cultural property and state policy on this matter are mentioned in detail, referring to both history and our days.

In particular, the annual report of the US Commission on Religious Freedom is based on satellite imagery captured by Caucasus Heritage Watch showing the destruction of two Armenian cemeteries, a mosque and several churches. Although it has already been recognized as an international crime (PACE resolutions, the International Court in The Hague), nevertheless, it remained unpunished by Azerbaijan. In 2020, the Azerbaijani government announced that two soldiers would be charged with destroying Armenian tombstones, but the authorities refused to release any information about these incidents. The report based on CHW satellite imagery, documents on the destruction in 2020 of Armenian cultural and religious sites in June-September and says they are still in danger today due to construction.

The report mentions recent unique precedents by important international bodies, where they considered significant the December decision of the International Court of Justice, calling on Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent, punish, vandalize and desecrate actions related to the cultural heritage of Armenia, ... including churches and other places of worship, ... cemeteries”, as well as several PACE resolutions “in connection with the destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh”.

The report, with reference to important parts of the PACE resolution, confirms their importance, especially "the deliberate damage to cultural heritage during the Six Weeks War, as well as the deliberate shelling of the Cathedral of the Holy Savior of Shushi, the destruction or elimination of other churches and cemeteries during and after the conflict." The Global Religious Freedom Report for 2021 by the US State Department establishes for the first time Azerbaijan's ongoing destruction of Armenian monuments as a unique international precedent.

In particular, the propaganda of "Albanization" of Azerbaijan in order to deny the Christian heritage of Artsakh and the Armenian identity. is criticized. In this regard, the organization proposed that the US government provide funding to the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Embassy in Baku, with the aim of reconstructing, preserving and protecting places of worship, religious or cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The report condemned Azerbaijan's policy of Albanianization of Armenian churches, citing a statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on May 4 that the reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Savior in Shushi, funded by the Azerbaijanis, should be carried out "in accordance with the original architectural style", but as a result it turned out that that the temple is also considered to be an "Albanian" heritage. The report says that the Armenian side is convinced that such statements are an attempt to hide the Armenian roots and structure of the church, including the original appearance of the dome of the church.

Acting Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Armenia Vahram Dumanyan in his letter to UNESCO accused Azerbaijan of actively pursuing a "policy of falsifying historical facts" when declaring Armenian cultural heritage sites in the occupied territories "Caucasian-Albanian".

In its report, the U.S. State Department expressed concern about problems with Armenian pilgrims visiting Dadivank after the ceasefire agreement in November 2020, saying it was difficult for Armenian pilgrims to visit it throughout the year, and in February-April, two groups were banned from entering the monastery. It is especially noteworthy that the report spoke not only about the destruction of Armenian cultural property during the war, but also about the destruction of Nakhichevan.

In June, The Art Newspaper, using satellite imagery, published a report on the destruction of medieval Armenian churches at Agulis in Nakhichevan. Churches were present in the 1977 photographs, but they no longer existing in the photographs of 2016 and 2019. Among those are Surb Stepanos, Surb Tovma, Surb Christapor, Surb Hovhannes Mkrtich, Great Hermitage Surb Astvatsatsin and Surb Hakob Hayrapet.

The Art Newspaper also reported on the destruction of Armenian heritage throughout Nakhichevan, which once included 89 churches, 5,840 khachkars and more than 22,000 tombstones, according to documents collected by independent researcher Argam Ayvazyan in 1964-87.

Clarification on the widespread comment regarding the decision of the International Court of Justice about the Convention of 1965 on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Recently, information according to which "The Hague court has recognized Armenia as the owner of Artsakh monuments" has been widely circulated on Armenian and international media platforms. However, this is not true.

In fact, on December 7, 2021, the International Court of Justice in The Hague (Netherlands) upheld its decision on the basis of a lawsuit filed by Armenia against Azerbaijan for violating the 1965 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which included a request for provisional measures. The decision of the court, consisting of three points, was issued by 15 judges (14 votes in favor and 1 against). None of the points mention the comment circulating in the press:

Moreover, despite the fact that Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides the “right to enter and use the inherited territory” and which should not be based on racial discrimination, nevertheless, there was no court order allowing Armenians to make pilgrimages, and to have the right to access the territories of cultural heritage ( ).

According to the court, the need to apply provisional measures is connected with the fact that the dispute has escalated due to the fear of causing irreversible damage to the Armenian cultural heritage. The importance of the judgment is expressed mainly in the following:

  • The decision of December 7 is the first and most effective international instrument calling on Azerbaijan to prevent any damage to the Armenian cultural heritage that came under its control as a result of the war.
  • The intentional destruction of cultural heritage has been linked to racial discrimination and thus to increased international opportunities to protect endangered heritage;
  • It is a message to nation-states (Azerbaijan) that sovereignty does not give government privileges to destroy cultural heritage, thereby creating a new way to deal with such vicious behavior.

Lear more about the decision of the Hague Court here.

Group of the academic platform


Hamlet Petrosyan, Nzhdeh Yeranyan․ “The Monumental Culture of Artsakh”

We are glad to inform that the research "The monumental culture of Artsakh" by Hamlet Petrosyan and Nzhdeh Yeranyan has been published. The book presents the monumental culture of Artsakh, including old, antique, early Christian monuments, khachkars and tombstones, by historical source study, architectural, pictorial and semantic examination. The problems of ethno-religious affiliation of these monuments are explained and reasoned in detail. The Azerbaijani falsifications on the monumental culture of Artsakh are presented and denied by the examination of documentary evidence. The research has been published with the support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

“Cultural heritage of Artsakh under attack” by Hamlet Petrosyan and Haykuhi Muradyan

We are glad to inform you, that the research “Cultural heritage of Artsakh under attack” done by Hamlet Petrosyan and Haykuhi Muradyan  was published on the initiative of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Artsakh Republic.
This introductory review presents policy of Azerbaijan during the Soviet period and years of independence, emphasizing the dangers of preserving the educational and cultural heritage under the control of Azerbaijan, caused due to the war unleashed by Azerbaijan on September 27, 2020, the cases of vandalism registered to the present day, and the current challenges of the Artsakh Republic aimed at preserving cultural heritage. The research was published in Armenian, English, Russian and French.
We would also like to inform you that the research of Hamlet Petrosyan and Nzhdeh Yeranyan "The monumental culture of Artsakh" is to be published in the coming days. Our special gratitude to the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church for supporting the printing work.

Hamlet Petrosyan։Cultural heritage of Artsakh under attack (article at

“The Society for Threatened Peoples” (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker / GfbV) is an international human rights organization with a consultative status at the UN. It was founded in 1968 as an organization aimed at preventing genocide. It is an online platform for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and publicizing protection issues. At the suggestion of the editorial board, on March 3, 2022, the article was published by Hamlet Petrosyan, dedicated to the Azerbaijani usurpation of Artsakh's cultural heritage.

European Parliament resolution on the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh (2022/2582(RSP))

The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on Armenia and Azerbaijan,

– having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2006 on cultural heritage in Azerbaijan,

– having regard to its resolution of 17 February 2022 on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy – annual report 2021,

– having regard to the joint statement of 9 December 2021 by the Chair of the Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Armenia and the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Azerbaijan on the Orders of the International Court of Justice of 7 December 2021 in the cases between Armenia and Azerbaijan,

– having regard to the reports of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe,

– having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 18 March 2020 entitled ‘Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020: Reinforcing Resilience – an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all’ (JOIN(2020)0007),

– having regard to the Economic and Investment Plan for the Eastern Partnership countries,

– having regard to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs’ statement of 11 November 2021 reiterating the importance of protecting historic and cultural sites in the region,

– having regard to the Orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 7 December 2021,

– having regard to the Council conclusions on EU approach to Cultural Heritage in conflicts and crises of 21 June 2021,

– having regard to the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 16 November 1972,

– having regard to the UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage of 17 October 2003,

– having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966,

– having regard to the European Cultural Convention, the revised European Convention for the Protection of Archaeological Heritage, and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, to which Armenia and Azerbaijan are parties,

– having regard to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which Armenia and Azerbaijan are parties, and its Protocol, as applicable to occupied territories, and the Second Protocol on enhanced protection of cultural property, which prohibits ‘any alteration to, or change of use of, a cultural property which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence’,

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

– having regard to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 21 December 1965,

– having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the destruction or desecration of any monuments or objects of cultural, religious or national heritage infringes the principles of the European Union;

B. whereas 1 456 monuments, mainly Armenian, came under Azerbaijan’s control after the ceasefire of 9 November 2020; whereas considerable deliberate damage was caused by Azerbaijan to Armenian cultural heritage during the 2020 war, particularly during the shelling of the Gazanchi Church, the Holy Saviour/Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha/Shushi, as well as the destruction, changing of the function of, or damage to other churches and cemeteries during and after the conflict, such as Zoravor Surb Astvatsatsin Church near the town of Mekhakavan and St Yeghishe in Mataghis village in Nagorno-Karabakh; whereas during his visit to the 12th century Armenian Church in Tsakuri, President Aliyev vowed to remove its Armenian inscriptions;

C. whereas, as mentioned in the UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage of 2003, cultural heritage is an important component of the cultural identity of communities, groups and individuals, and of social cohesion, so that its intentional destruction may have adverse consequences on human dignity and human rights;

D. whereas the destruction of cultural heritage sites, artefacts and objects contributes to the escalation of hostilities, mutual hatred and racial prejudice between and within societies;

E. whereas respect for minorities, including the protection of their cultural heritage, is a part of the European Neighbourhood Policy; whereas the European Neighbourhood Policy aims to establish a partnership with Armenia and Azerbaijan on the basis of common values;

F. whereas the most recent armed conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh ended following an agreement on a complete ceasefire in and around Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, which was signed on 9 November 2020 and entered into force on 10 November 2020;

G. whereas numerous churches, mosques, cross-stones and cemeteries are located in Nagorno-Karabakh;

H. whereas on 7 December 2021 the ICJ indicated in its Order that Azerbaijan ‘shall take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artefacts’; whereas the ICJ ordered Armenia and Azerbaijan to ‘take all necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred’; whereas the ICJ ordered Azerbaijan to ‘protect from violence and bodily harm all persons captured in relation to the 2020 Conflict who remain in detention’; whereas in its Orders the ICJ has indicated that ‘both parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve’;

I. whereas UNESCO has reiterated countries’ obligation to protect cultural heritage in accordance with the terms of The Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and has proposed carrying out an independent expert mission, in order to draw up a preliminary inventory of significant cultural properties, as a first step towards the effective safeguarding of the region’s heritage;

J. whereas the safeguarding of cultural heritage has a key role in promoting lasting peace by fostering tolerance, intercultural and inter-faith dialogue and mutual understanding, as well as democracy and sustainable development;

K. whereas cultural goods are of major cultural, artistic, historical and scientific importance and must be protected from unlawful appropriation, deterioration and destruction; whereas Armenian churches and monasteries are part of the oldest Christian heritage in the world and part of the common heritage of humanity;

L. whereas in the case before the ICJ, serious allegations have been made about the involvement of the authorities of Azerbaijan in the destruction of cemeteries, churches and historical monuments in Nagorno-Karabakh;

M. whereas the long-running conflict has had a catastrophic impact on the cultural heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh and the region; whereas over the last 30 years, the irreversible destruction of religious and cultural heritage has been carried out by Azerbaijan, notably in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, where 89 Armenian churches, 20 000 graves and more than 5 000 headstones have been destroyed; whereas this has also occurred in the former conflict areas returned by Armenia to Azerbaijan, in particular the almost total destruction and looting of Aghdam and Fuzuli;

N. whereas the first Nagorno-Karabakh war led to Azerbaijani cultural heritage being damaged or destroyed, including cultural and religious sites left behind by Azerbaijani internally displaced persons in the region: whereas these sites were either destroyed, partially destroyed, neglected or desecrated by being used as cattle sheds, modified to remove cultural traces, or disassembled for building materials;

O. whereas the elimination of the traces of Armenian cultural heritage in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is being achieved not only by damaging and destroying it, but also through the falsification of history and attempts to present it as so-called Caucasian Albanian; whereas on 3 February 2022, the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan, Anar Karimov, announced the establishment of a working group responsible for removing ‘the fictitious traces written by Armenians on Albanian religious temples’;

  1. Strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, in violation of international law and the recent decision of the ICJ;
  2. Acknowledges that the erasure of the Armenian cultural heritage is part of a wider pattern of a systematic, state-level policy of Armenophobia, historical revisionism and hatred towards Armenians promoted by the Azerbaijani authorities, including dehumanisation, the glorification of violence and territorial claims against the Republic of Armenia which threaten peace and security in the South Caucasus;
  3. Stresses that cultural heritage has a universal dimension as a testimony of history inseparable from peoples’ identity, which the international community has to protect and preserve for future generations; underlines the importance of the rich cultural heritage of the region; urges all states to take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage sites present in territory under their control; deplores the fact that the conflicts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region have led to the destruction, pillaging and looting of common cultural heritage, which has fuelled further distrust and animosities;
  4. Recalls that historical revisionism and the defacement and destruction of cultural or religious heritage run counter to the ICJ’s Order of 7 December 2021, as well as to Parliament’s resolution of 20 May 20213 ;
  5. Recognises, as does the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICJ, that cultural heritage constitutes a unique and important testimony of the culture and identities of peoples, and that the degradation and destruction of cultural heritage, whether tangible or intangible, constitutes a loss to the affected communities, as well as to the international 3 European Parliament resolution of 20 May 2021 on prisoners of war in the aftermath of the most recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, community as a whole;
  6. Welcomes the central role played by UNESCO in protecting cultural heritage and promoting culture as an instrument to bring people closer together and foster dialogue;
  7. Welcomes UNESCO’s proposal to send an independent expert mission and calls for it to be sent without delay; stresses that Azerbaijan must grant unhindered access to all cultural heritage sites in order for the mission to draw up an inventory on the ground and to see what has happened to the sites;
  8. Strongly insists that Azerbaijan enable UNESCO to have access to the heritage sites in the territories under its control, in order to be able to proceed with their inventory and for Azerbaijan to ensure their protection; urges Azerbaijan to ensure that no interventions on Armenian heritage sites occur prior to a UNESCO assessment mission, and that Armenian and international cultural heritage experts are consulted prior to, and closely involved during interventions on Armenian cultural heritage sites; calls for the full restoration of these and other demolished sites and for greater involvement of the international community, particularly UNESCO, in protecting the world heritage sites located in the region;
  9. Calls for the EU to actively participate in efforts to protect cultural heritage at risk in Nagorno-Karabakh, notably by deploying mechanisms to facilitate UNESCO’s fact[1]finding mission; encourages all initiatives, including private ones, to help preserve this heritage; suggests the use of the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) to provide satellite images in order to help determine the external condition of the endangered heritage in the region;
  10. Emphasises the need to approach the protection of historical and cultural heritage within the broader framework of conflict resolution between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the final definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh; in this context, calls on Azerbaijan to discard its maximalist aims, militaristic approach and territorial claims on Armenia and engage in good faith in negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh;
  11. Underlines that the measures indicated in the ICJ Orders of 7 December 2021 have to be taken without delay; stresses that any new cases of the destruction or alteration of cultural heritage should be addressed immediately by the international community;
  12. Calls on Azerbaijan to fully implement the provisional decision of the ICJ, in particular by ‘refraining from suppressing the Armenian language, destroying Armenian cultural heritage or otherwise eliminating the existence of the historical Armenian cultural presence or inhibiting Armenians’ access and enjoyment thereof’ and by ‘restoring or returning any Armenian cultural and religious buildings and sites, artefacts or objects’; stresses that any new cases of the destruction or alteration of cultural heritage should be addressed immediately by the international community;
  13. Reiterates its call for the EU to incorporate a clause on protecting archaeological and historical sites into the action plans guiding the partnership between the EU and Armenia and Azerbaijan, both of which participate in the European Neighbourhood Policy;
  14. Stresses that respect for minority rights, including historical, religious and cultural heritage, is an essential prerequisite for an effective implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and for the creation of conditions conducive to post-war rehabilitation, genuine reconciliation and good neighbourly relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan;
  15. Calls on the Governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, with the support of the international community, to ensure effective investigations into all allegations of violations of international law, including the protection of cultural heritage;
  16. Calls for the EU and the Member States to continue supporting the work of international organisations aimed at the protection of cultural and religious heritage;
  17. Calls for the EU and the Member States to continue supporting the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance;
  18. Calls for the EU and the Member States to support civil society organisations in Armenia and Azerbaijan that genuinely contribute to reconciliation;
  19. Calls for the EU, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE to jointly encourage and support efforts aimed at safeguarding cultural and religious heritage;
  20. Calls on the Commission to use all available levers to prevent acts of vandalism, destruction or alteration of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh;
  21. Underlines that the efforts of the international community in safeguarding the cultural heritage are essential to laying the foundations for sustainable peace in the region;
  22. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Government and President of Armenia, the Government and President of Azerbaijan, the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the Director-General of UNESCO, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly adopts resolution on destruction of Armenian cultural heritage caused by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh

The European Parliament with an overwhelming majority of votes (635 in favor, 2 against and 42 abstained) adopts resolution on the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage caused by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, strongly condemning the Azerbaijan’s policy of Armenophobia.

Material source: JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh (

The Armenian Art That Azerbaijan May ‘Erase’ From Churches

On February 9, RFE / RL posted an article by Amos Chapple detailing the scandalous statement by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture on 3rd of February. The article presents the policy pursued by Azerbaijan towards the Armenian cultural heritage in Artsakh, the false theses proposed and propagated by Azerbaijan.


Unfortunately, instead of the historical toponyms, which constitute an important component of the identity of cultural heritage, the author presented the explanations of the photos based on the administrative-territorial division of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2020-2021. The historical name is one of the main components of the cultural identity; by giving up those names, the integrity of the cultural heritage is disturbed.

Baku announced -- then partly walked back -- steps to remove what it calls "fictitious traces” of Armenian heritage from churches now under Azerbaijani control in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Archival images show what some of those inscriptions and artworks look like.

Crosses and Armenian text on the walls of the Dadivank Monastery in Azerbaijan's Kalbajar District.

The Dadivank Monastery (pictured above) is one of scores of Christian sites recaptured by Azerbaijan during the 2020 war with ethnic Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh. Dadivank is currently under the control of Russian peacekeepers inside Azerbaijani territory.

A detail of Dadivank Monastery with Armenian script and carved figures.

On February 3, Azerbaijan’s Cultural Ministry caused an outcry when it announced the creation of a committee that would take steps to “remove the fictitious traces written by Armenians on Albanian religious temples” in the recaptured areas.

A detail of a 12th-century khachkar (cross-stone) in Handaberd, a fortress in the Kalbajar region.

In a tweet, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it is "deeply concerned by #Azerbaijan's plans to remove Armenian Apostolic inscriptions from churches. We urge the government to preserve and protect places of worship and other religious and cultural sites."

Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly claimed ancient monuments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region are of Caucasian Albanian -- rather than Armenian -- origin and that artworks, such as the khachkar above, are “forgeries.”

A 2018 photo of the Holy Mother of God Church in the recaptured Hadrut region. Armenian script is visible above the entrance.

When Azerbaijan’s President lham Aliyev visited the church pictured above in March 2021, he dismissed Armenian script on the entrance.

“All these inscriptions are fake,” Aliyev declared. “They were written later,” suggesting the church had Caucasian Albanian origins.

Details, including Armenian script, on a wall of the fifth-century Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery in the Tartar region of Azerbaijan.

Historians say Christian Albanian tribes did live in an area of today’s Azerbaijan. Their last king was assassinated in 822.

A small khachkar above an entranceway in the ruined Mokhrenis Church in the Hadrut region of Azerbaijan.

In the 1950s, controversial Azerbaijani academic Ziya Bunyadov first floated the theory that ancient churches in Nagorno-Karabakh were built by vanished Albanian tribes and not Armenians. That claim has been amplified in recent years by Azerbaijani officials.

A khachkar in the recaptured Lachin District of Azerbaijan.

The Albanian claim has been widely panned by international scholars. Thomas de Waal, a British expert on the Caucasus, calls the Azerbaijani claims “rather bizarre” and notes the argument “has the strong political subtext” that Armenians “had no claim to [Nagorno-Karabakh].”

Bunyadov was behind a notorious article in which he claimed Armenians engineered a 1988 massacre of Armenians to vilify Azerbaijan.

A fresco inside Dadivank Monastery.

After the February 3 announcement by Azerbaijan’s culture minister that a working group had been set up to “restore Armenianized Albanian temples,” the Culture Ministry followed up with a response to the reporting of what it called “biased foreign mass media outlets.”

Armenian script at the entrance to the 13th-century St. Sargis Church in Azerbaijan’s recaptured Kalbajar District.

The February 7 statement appeared to partly walk back the earlier announcement, saying only that the working group would note any “falsifications” to monuments in recaptured territory, which would then be “presented to the international community.”

Khachkars embedded in the walls of Dadivank Monastery.

A ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 2021 on a case brought by Armenia declared that Azerbaijan must “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage” in the recaptured territories.

A cross visible on the Yerits Mankants Monastery in Azerbaijan’s Tartar District.

But there are fears -- after the erasure of Armenian heritage from the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan -- that Azerbaijan will press ahead with wiping out Armenian cultural heritage in the retaken areas.

Analysts have pointed out that Baku has renewed leverage with the West due to tensions with Moscow over Ukraine.

A carved stone on the grounds of Yerits Mankants Monastery.

Amidst fears Russia could restrict gas flows to the European Union over Ukraine tensions, the bloc’s energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, visited Baku on February 4.

After the meeting, the commissioner hailed “strong bilateral” ties with the authoritarian country, while Azerbaijani President Aliyev declared a “new phase” in partnership with the EU over energy supplies.

Decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Azerbaijan’s violation of the Convention of 1965 on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

On December 7, 2021, the International Court of Justice in The Hague (Netherlands) filed a lawsuit against Azerbaijan for violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (hereinafter referred to as the Convention), adopted by the UN in 1965, which included a request for provisional measures.

The International Court of Justice, in its full report on the publication of the Order, presented the essence of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict as follows: “Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet republics, declared independence on September 21, 1991, and October 18, 1991, respectively”.

In Soviet times, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, the majority of whose inhabitants were ethnic Armenians, was located on the territory of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. The demands of the parties to the region led to hostilities that resulted in a ceasefire in May 1994. Further hostilities broke out in September 2020 and continued for 44 days. On November 9, 2020, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the President of the Russian Federation signed the "Trilateral Statement", according to which, from November 10, 2020, "a complete ceasefire and a cessation of all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict" have been declared.

As for the Convention, it should be recalled that both Armenia and Azerbaijan are parties to  "The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination", and therefore recognize the fact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of race, color or national origin (The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, introduction).

A number of articles of the Convention state that any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life are condemned (The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 1.1).

In its Order, the Court notes that Armenia claims that Azerbaijan continues to violate its obligations under Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the Convention, that, as a result of its policy of ethnic cleansing, Azerbaijan violated the rights of the captured prisoners of war, as well as civilians of the Armenian nationality or ethnic Armenians, inciting racial hatred. As an example, they cite the mannequins of the “Military Park” that opened in Baku after the war conflict of 2020, which present Armenian soldiers in a humiliating way. Azerbaijan also continues to pursue a policy of systematic destruction and falsification of Armenian cultural sites and heritage.

The Court considered the claim of Armenia and in its Order, which has a binding effect, noted the following interim measures:

The decision was made by 15 judges - fourteen votes in favor and one against. However, this Order is not unequivocal, since, firstly, the court is limited to articles 22 and 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, therefore it could only impose provisional measures if the provisions justified by the applicant were prima facie (accepted as correct until proved otherwise).

The Court notes that, according to Armenia, Azerbaijan violated its obligations under the Convention in various ways, while Azerbaijan denied having committed any of the alleged violations.

The Court found that not all of the rights claimed by Armenia are credible, only two of them can be considered prima facie: the right to repatriation, the right to be protected from the inhuman and degrading treatment of Armenians. Moreover, Armenia did not provide the court with evidence that these people continue to be in captivity in Azerbaijan on the basis of their national or ethnic origin.

Azerbaijan objects that these people are detained as alleged criminals as a result of the military conflict. However, the Court considers reasonable the right of such detainees not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on the basis of their national or ethnic origin. The Court also considers credible the rights allegedly violated by high-ranking Azerbaijani officials through inciting racial hatred, discrimination against persons of Armenian or ethnic origin, as well as acts of vandalism affecting the Armenian cultural heritage.

The Court concludes that Azerbaijan must refrain from the propaganda of hatred against persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin, prevent vandalism, destruction or alteration of the Armenian historical, cultural and religious heritage, and protect the right to enter and use the territory of this heritage.

The Court notes that the request for provisional measures is also related to the fact that irreparable damage may be caused to cultural heritage. In particular, the alleged disregard of the rights recognized by the court and worthy of trust may cause irreparable damage to the Armenian heritage. And this is a real danger that requires an urgent solution. In addition, the court recalls that Armenia applied to the court with a request to take measures that would help not aggravate the dispute with Azerbaijan.

The only person who voted against Azerbaijan's ban on vandalism, desecration and the use of other provisional measures against the Armenian cultural heritage was the judge of the International Court of Justice ad hoc Keith. He is from Somalia (Africa) and was appointed for 2018-2021.

He justified his negative vote as follows: The Convention does not provide the protection of cultural property. In addition, even if Armenian cultural property is protected by the "Convention for the Protection against All Forms of Racial Discrimination", access to the places where they are located is difficult due to mines and the existing military danger, and not because of the unwillingness to ensure access of Armenians to the objects of cultural heritage due to their national or ethnic origin. After all, Judge Keith cannot find evidence of a real, immediate risk that would cause irreparable damage to the relevant law.