Activities of International Organizations in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Area

The Caucasus in Detail journalistic group continues to investigate the existence of instruments for establishing a truce in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area.

EU structures interacting with Armenia and Azerbaijan can increase pressure on the parties to the conflict to adhere to both international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL).

IHL defines the obligations of all parties to an armed conflict, including non-state armed groups. The main instruments of IHL are the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and two additional protocols of 1977.

The obligations include:
— the observance of sufficient precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure during attacks;
— prohibition of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks;
— a ban on the use of indiscriminate weapons and weapons of excessive destruction, the use of which entails unnecessary suffering;
— prohibition on premeditated murder and causing serious bodily harm;
— prohibiting the forced movement of civilians, except in cases of extreme military necessity or ensuring their own security;
— ban on looting;
— a ban on the destruction of property not justified by military necessity.

All of the above norms are violated during the current intense hostilities. Civilians suddenly found themselves in the line of fire. From the point of view of IHL, their rights should be protected by international human rights organizations, that have so far reacted with surprising calmness to the ongoing flagrant violations in the conflict zone.
Despite the fact that Azerbaijan has not ratified the international convention on the prohibition of cluster munitions, this does not exempt from liability for their use.

At the moment, international human rights and other non-governmental organizations have limited themselves to official statements.
So the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch recalled that all parties must comply with the unconditional prohibition of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population.

Amnesty International has called on all parties to the conflict to fully comply with international humanitarian law and to protect civilians from the effects of hostilities, to abide by prohibitions on indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects. In addition, the military must take all feasible precautions to avoid causing harm to civilians and civilian objects. This means that they should refrain from using explosive weapons with a large radius of destruction, in particular artillery, near densely populated civilian areas.

Amnesty International has not yet been able to independently verify the civilian casualties.

After the release of information about the restriction by the Azerbaijani leadership of access to the Internet in the country, Amnesty International drew attention to the fact that Armenia and Azerbaijan should not use the conflict as an excuse to arbitrarily restrict people’s rights. This is a disproportionate measure and a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

Azerbaijan reacted negatively to the calls of the non-governmental organization Amnesty International, accusing it of being biased and pro-Armenian.

The activities of international human rights organizations in the aspects of the Karabakh settlement have not yielded results. Roughly speaking, the statements made were made more as a formality than to achieve a cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks.
There are more competent organizations in the European space, which have built a dialogue with the parties to the conflict.

For more than 10 years, among such organizations, a special place has been occupied by the European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (EPNK), created on the initiative of the European civil society. EPNK is a consortium of five non-profit organizations: Conciliation Resources (UK), Crisis Management Initiative (Finland), International Alert (UK), The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (Sweden) and LINKS (UK), and “Catholic Relief Services (CRS)”, which is entrusted with activities in the social and humanitarian sphere.

The activities of the consortium members are funded by the EU and are aimed at strengthening confidence between European, Armenian and Azerbaijani structures. LINKS is engaged in establishing inter-parliamentary cooperation between the parties to the conflict.

The consortium is considered to be the only international structure that finances projects of non-governmental organizations in Karabakh. The partnership has existed since 2010 and has worked with numerous local partners in the region to help build peace, engaging at various levels with Azerbaijanis and Armenians, representatives of a wide range of sectors of society, including youth, women, displaced persons, politicians and journalists.

International Alert, in particular, maintains contacts with non-governmental organizations and fosters civil dialogue. Within the framework of International Alert, a Resource Center for NGOs was created in Stepanakert, under the auspices of which about a dozen organizations are implementing projects.

LINKS maintains the web portal in Russian and English, which provides news summary and analysis on the conflict and the region as a whole.

LINKS activities are aimed at:

1. Maintaining a regular dialogue with the governments, parliaments and political forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as with the de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh, internally displaced persons — Azerbaijanis from Nagorno-Karabakh and other stakeholders from different sides of the conflict in order to develop new ideas and approaches for resolving the conflict.

2. Work to overcome stereotypes and stimulate broader strategic thinking through articles and interviews in the central media of Armenia, Azerbaijan and others, as well as through participation in round tables, conferences and other events.

3. Collaboration with the European Policy Center in Brussels to produce regular reports, analytical materials and commentary on issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as create a space for discussion of the conflict and related topics.

4. Collaboration with the International Peace Institute in Vienna to bring together experts from the region and the international community to address particularly difficult moments in the conflict resolution process.

5. Carrying out mentoring functions for young professionals and researchers dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and broader Caucasian topics both within the region and throughout the EU.

Despite the professionalism and specificity of spheres of activity, during the period of hostilities, the consortium “European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict” distinguished itself by the lack of any measures, as well as the lack of response to events in the conflict area. This suggests that it is advisable to allocate large sums of money to support its member organizations.

Over the decade of their work, these organizations have had the opportunity to accumulate an arsenal of means of positive influence on the course of the conflict settlement. In fact, many of the activities aimed at finding common ground between the parties to the conflict have been undertaken for reporting.