Armenia to be held internationally-legally accountable - economic expert

Armenia to be held internationally-legally accountable - economic expert

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 16


During the Patriotic War, Armenia, in violation of international law, caused damage to the civilian population and infrastructure on the territory of Azerbaijan, located far from the combat zone, Executive Director of the Center for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication (CAERC), Doctor of Economics Vusal Gasimli, told in an interview with Trend.

The Center for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication is conducting a systematic study of the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, Gasimli said.

- How can the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan be assessed in terms of international law?

By involving international experts, Azerbaijan will accurately calculate the damage caused by Armenia to biological, land, water, mineral resources, as well as our property and cultural heritage.

Armenia can be held accountable in various areas of law, such as humanitarian law, human rights, and the law of peace, as well as for damage caused to peaceful Azerbaijanis.

Humanitarian law, as a branch of common law, was formed earlier than the legal framework governing human rights. The basis of humanitarian law is "Geneva Law", which refers to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, "The Hague Law", which refers to the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and some resolutions of the UN General Assembly. Geneva law protects those who did not take part in hostilities, including the wounded, prisoners, civilians, and others. The Hague Law restricts and prohibits certain methods and means of warfare to prevent violence.

The Geneva Conventions consist of four parts: on the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in the armies, on the amelioration of the condition of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea, on the treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of civilians in time of war. Compliance with the Geneva Conventions is monitored by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The protection of civilians, governed by the 4th Geneva Convention, has been endorsed by the United Nations as a “custom” that applies to all and is recognized by most states. A custom rule such as the protection of civilians in time of war also applies to countries that have not ratified the Statute of the UN Court. From this point of view, Armenia can be held accountable for crimes against Azerbaijan.

Some customary norms are considered more important, are accepted as peremptory legal norms (jus cogens), and are binding on all countries. Although customary norms are not applied if they contradict the state's own legal framework, peremptory norms in this context are considered an exception. Thus, these norms are considered important and unconditional obligations in the international arena, even if they are not confirmed by the legal basis of the state itself or reflected otherwise. These norms regulate such issues as an international crime, crimes against humanity, aggressive policy (occupation) and aggressive war, genocide, slavery.

- Can we say that there were violations of peremptory legal norms concerning Azerbaijan?

It was the peremptory norms that were violated against Azerbaijan, which have unconditional force in international law. Thus, initially, the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands by Armenians is considered an aggressive policy in international law, the massacres of people in this process reveal the facts of aggressive war and even genocide, which is regulated by other imperative norms. An important fact is that a war of aggression is attributed to the side that took these steps (initiator), that is, the side taking retaliatory measures is not considered in international law to be waging an aggressive war.

An aggressive war also means a violation of the Hague Conventions. Thus, these Conventions prohibit the use of weapons and supplies containing asphyxiant gases and harmful substances, as well as causing unnecessary suffering, destruction of property without military necessity, robbery, and confiscation. As is known, the Armenians committed serious violations against Azerbaijan on all points of these bans. Thus, the facts of shelling by Armenians of peaceful settlements of Azerbaijan with the use of supplies producing white phosphorus, cases of the use of cluster bombs, looting, or destruction of property belonging to our people in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan were recorded. Another type of prohibited weapon is cluster munitions, the use of which is prohibited in densely populated areas following the International Convention on Cluster Munitions. This weapon was also used by the Armenians against the civilian population in Ganja, Barda, and other settlements, which led to colossal casualties.

- How is the vandalism of Armenia against the cultural, historical, and religious monuments of Azerbaijan reflected in international law?

The Hague law requires all possible measures to be taken to protect cultural monuments and medical facilities. These requirements are reflected in another international legal document - the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The serious violations committed by the Armenians in this direction must also be especially noted.

The Armenians have destroyed almost all historical and religious monuments in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan or kept pigs in mosques, as a sign of disrespect for our religion. Besides, during the six-week war, during armed attacks not only in the occupied territories but also in other Azerbaijani lands, more than 20 religious sites and historical monuments were damaged.

- In what forms can Armenia's international legal responsibility be implemented?

International legal responsibility as an absolute responsibility is the obligation of a subject of international law to eliminate and compensate for damage caused by the violation of an international legal obligation to another subject of the same status. For the crimes committed by Armenia against Azerbaijan, such types of legal responsibility as reparation, restitution, compensation, and satisfaction were formed. These types of liability include various forms, both material and non-material.

Reparation is the process of the defeated party’s compensating for the damage caused by military action to the winning party. Restitution is the return of the state to its previous state before the crime was committed. For example, the release of illegally detained persons and the return of confiscated property. Compensation or reimbursement for damage in modern international law means the payment of material damage for material or moral damage. Compensation is the most common form of reimbursement for damage to international relations.

At the same time, the public apology of the violating party - satisfaction, the obligation not to repeat the same or similar behavior, are also measures provided for by international law.

- What can you say about the practical application of international legal responsibility in world practice?

For the first time, reparations were appointed following the First World War. In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, which emphasized the responsibility of Germany and its allies, and awarded damages in the amount of 269 billion gold marks, equivalent to about 100,000 tons of gold. During World War II, Germany and its allies were also saddled with reparations. This decision was made in 1945 at the Yalta Conference. As a result, about 400,000 railway freight cars, 2,885 factory equipment, 96 power plant equipment, 340,000 cars, 200,000 electric motors, 1 million 335,000 head of cattle, 2.3 million tons of grain, one million tons of potatoes and vegetables, half a million tons of oil and sugar, 20 million liters of alcohol, 16 tons of tobacco.

Besides, telescopes of the Astronomical Observatory of the Humboldt University, Berlin subway cars, and cruise liners, as well as other technological equipment were transferred as objects of reparation to the USSR. Germany also paid reparations to other countries in stages.

Another example is reparations ordered as a result of the conflict between Japan and Indonesia. As a result of the peace and compensation agreement signed on January 20, 1958, Japan had to pay Indonesia $223 million for 12 years. In addition, the UN obliged Iraq to compensate for the damage and losses caused by the illegal occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. The International Compensation Commission was established to ensure the payment of compensation.

- What will be the mechanism for bringing Armenia to justice for crimes committed against Azerbaijan?

International prosecutions are also reflected in the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. From this point of view, criminal prosecution for crimes committed by Armenians against Azerbaijan can be carried out both following international law and based on domestic legislation. According to the national legislation, persons suspected of committing a crime are put on the international wanted list, then arrested by the relevant authorities of any country in which they are located and transferred to the investigating authorities, and when they are sentenced by an Azerbaijani court.

If this isn’t possible, international law and international courts are considering resolving this issue. Responsibility for international crimes in Azerbaijan was first defined in the 1999 Criminal Code, and according to article 10 of the Code, the criminality and punishability of an act (action or inaction) are determined by the criminal law in force at the time of committing the act - that is, the retroactive (reverse) application of criminal law norms is prohibited.

Crimes against peace and humanity can be prosecuted by national courts if war crimes have been committed after that date. The Azerbaijani General Prosecutor's Office is carrying out systematic and laudable work in this sphere.

As was already mentioned, the crimes committed by Armenians are considered international crimes and this means that other countries, relying on their own domestic legislation, can prosecute those who committed international crimes in Azerbaijan.

We can refer to the practice of prosecuting those responsible for crimes against humanity after the wars in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, following the domestic laws of Denmark, Germany, and some other countries, relying on universal jurisdiction.

- What other forms of prosecution can we use at the international level?

Temporary Ad hoc tribunals may be established. Such structures are created temporarily to resolve a specific conflict and bring the accused to justice.

Such tribunals can be created on the initiative of the UN Security Council or the UN Secretary-General based on decisions of the UN General Assembly. In world practice, we can mention the creation of special tribunals in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Lebanon, or Sierra Leone.

The International Criminal Court, acting based on the Rome Statute, ratified by 124 countries, prosecutes perpetrators of crimes committed at the international level.

The International Criminal Court currently deals with three types of crime, namely, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

As a result of the impossibility to exercise jurisdiction over any crime committed before the entry of the Rome Statute into force, although the atrocities committed by the Armenians in the First Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict covered all three spheres which are under consideration by the court, unfortunately, it was impossible to bring them to the tribunal.

However, the files related to the actions of Armenia violating international law in the Patriotic War for the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region can be submitted to the International Criminal Court through the UN.

- How can one demand compensation from Armenia for damage to Azerbaijan?

The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) was established in 1991 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 687 to pay compensation for the illegal occupation of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990-1991. So far, the Commission has ensured the payment of compensation worth $350 billion in connection with 2.7 million claims. The Commission regulates the payment of compensation on six categories of claims.

The International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body of the United Nations, is distinguished by a wide range of judicial activity. Its main obligations are to resolve legal disputes between the countries and to give advisory opinions on legal issues transferred to it by competent international bodies and structures.

The European Court of Human Rights, established in accordance with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, is open to citizens of countries that have ratified this Convention.

However, protection following the Convention extends only to the relations between a person and authorities. That is, every injured citizen of Azerbaijan can bring Armenia to justice by filing a complaint. The work in this sphere has already begun.

- What work is being conducted to assess the damage caused by Armenia?

Two methods can be used to assess the damage caused as a result of the conflict. First, direct losses are assessed. The real cost of damage caused to the destroyed infrastructure is estimated.

Second, indirect damage, when opportunities and additional benefits are lost as a result of infrastructure destruction are assessed.

The key impact assessment techniques have also been used in various conflicts. For example, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) assessed the impact on Yemen in 2019. It is more based on results-based assessment methodology.

Another assessment was carried out by the World Bank in Iraq in 2018 to assess the damage caused by the war and the need for the creation of a new infrastructure system.

The damage caused to the infrastructure by the IS terrorist organization, as well as the damage caused to such sectors as social, industrial, communal, including destroyed houses, tourist facilities, transport, state facilities, ecology, and others, were assessed.

The State Commission was established to assess and eliminate the damage caused by Armenia, starting from September 27, 2020, to the civilians on the Azerbaijani territory, including infrastructure facilities, business entities.

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