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UN court tells Armenia and Azerbaijan to cool feud

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THE HAGUE: The UN’s top court ordered rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday to prevent racial hatred and avoid aggravating their feud following last year’s war between the Caucasus arch-foes.

Azerbaijan was also told to protect Armenian prisoners from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and to stop the desecration of Armenian cultural heritage, including churches.

The former Soviet republics had both made tit-for-tat requests asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to take emergency measures against alleged breaches of a treaty banning racial discrimination.

“Both parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve,” ICJ chief judge Joan Donoghue said.

The court’s orders — which are binding even though the ICJ has no real means of enforcing them — are pending a full case on the row that could take years to resolve.

The ICJ was set up after World War II to resolve disputes between United Nations member states. Tensions have simmered for years over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Conflict erupted in autumn last year, claiming more than 6,500 lives. It ended in November with a Russian-brokered ceasefire under which Armenia ceded territories it had controlled for decades to Turkish-backed Azerbaijan. Judges on Tuesday ordered Azerbaijan to “protect from violence and bodily harm” all Armenian prisoners from the conflict and ensure they are treated lawfully, following allegations of mistreatment. Azerbaijan must further prevent the “vandalism and desecration” of Armenian cultural heritage including churches, it said.

Baku had already ordered the removal of wax mannequins of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan’s so-called Military Trophies Park, which Armenia had requested due to their “Armenophobic features”, the court said.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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