THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Armenia is taking its decades-long territorial dispute with neighboring Azerbaijan, which erupted into armed conflict again last year, to the highest court in the United Nations.
Armenia filed a case with the International Court of Justice alleging violations by Azerbaijan of an international convention that aims to eliminate racial discrimination, the court announced Thursday night.
Armenia alleges that as a result of what it calls a “state-sponsored policy of hatred towards Armenians, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass murder, torture and other abuses,” the court said.
Case centers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government for more than a quarter of a century.
During the Soviet era, the predominantly Armenian-populated region had an autonomous status within Azerbaijan. Long-standing tensions between Armenian Christians and Muslim Azeris mostly erupted when the Soviet Union collapsed. The conflict erupted in 1988 when the region tried to join Armenia and turned into a war after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, leaving approximately 30,000 dead and displacing around 1 million.
The fighting that broke out again a year ago killed hundreds of people, making it the largest outbreak of the conflict since 1994.
Armenia alleges that Azerbaijanis committed “serious violations of the convention on racial discrimination” during the fighting last year.
The Armenian case says that even after a Ceasefire negotiated by Russia entered into force on November 10, “Azerbaijan has continued to participate in the murder, torture and other abuses of Armenian prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees,” according to the court.
Azerbaijan is expected to present a similar case against Armenia next week in the world court.
“In the coming days, we will hold #Armenia accountable for violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov said in a tweet. “30 years of human rights abuses against Azerbaijanis during the occupation will not be tolerated.”
In its case, Armenia also asks the court to urgently order so-called “interim measures” to protect the country and the Armenians “from further harm and to prevent this dispute from escalating or spreading” while the case is before the court.
The world court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, deals with disputes between nations. Cases often take years to resolve.