Genocide scholars call for immediate UN intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh

Prominent genocide scholars have submitted an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Member States of the UN Security Council regarding the potential for genocide in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

Below is the full letter:

H.E. António Guterres
UN Secretary-General,

Mr. Volker Türk
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,

Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu
Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide,

UN Security Council Member States

9 August 2023

We, the undersigned scholars and experts on genocide, are writing to you with an overwhelming sense of urgency and concern about the potential for genocide in the Republic of Artsakh (also known as the Nagorno Karabakh Republic). As scholars deeply engaged in the study of genocide, we bear witness to the horrors of history, rigorously analyze past and present atrocities, working to prevent new genocides from occurring. Presently, we find ourselves profoundly concerned by the emergence of unmistakable warning signs of genocide in Artsakh. The most significant risk factor is the unlawful blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which serves as the vital link connecting Artsakh to Armenia.

Since December 2022, the Lachin Corridor, the sole lifeline connecting the Artsakh population to the outside world, has been unlawfully blockaded by Azerbaijani authorities. This distressing situation reached a critical juncture on June 15, 2023, when Azerbaijan sealed off this vital road, subjecting the Republic of Artsakh and its 120,000 residents to a dire state of siege. For the past two months, Artsakh has been forcibly deprived of its ability to access essential supplies such as food, medicine, and other critical goods. Even humanitarian relief efforts conducted by Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been obstructed, exacerbating an already grave humanitarian crisis.

The escalating humanitarian crisis has prompted the ICRC, the sole international organization with a presence on the ground, to issue a grave alert. In a public statement released on July 25 (, the ICRC unequivocally documented that“The civilian population is now facing a lack of life-saving medication and essentials like hygiene products and baby formula. Fruits, vegetables, and bread are increasingly scarce and costly, while some other food items such as dairy products, sunflower oil, cereal, fish, and chicken are not available.”

Furthermore, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has issued an alarming atrocity alert for Nagorno Karabakh(, highlighting the persistent risk of enduring mass atrocity crimes.

Considering the aforementioned circumstances and drawing upon additional pertinent information provided by various impartial organizations, human rights organisations, and other relevant stakeholders, we, as experts in the field of genocide studies, hold the view that compelling indicators exist that in the absence of prompt and resolute action, a genocide targeting the ethnic Armenian population of Artsakh is a looming possibility. The prevention of genocide and safeguarding vulnerable populations stand as fundamental obligations of the global community, as underscored by the United Nations Charter and the Genocide Convention of 1948, along with subsequent pledges undertaken by international actors. Guided by these principles, we strongly urge member states and UN bodies to promptly and resolutely step forward, exercising their responsibility to forestall any additional loss of innocent lives and preclude the occurrence of large-scale atrocities.

Specifically, we call upon the United Nations to activate its early warning mechanism, as stipulated within its mandates, to expeditiously address the tangible and imminent threat of genocide in Artsakh. We urge a concerted international effort to bring this grave situation to the attention of the UN Security Council. The Security Council should take decisive action to avert the progression of genocide by urgently removing the blockade on the Lachin Corridor, thereby reinstating unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo along this life-supporting corridor in both directions. Security Council action should also support of the Provisional Measures order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 22 February 2023 (reaffirmed 6 July 2023), which ordered Azerbaijan to ‘take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions’. A Provisional Measures order is binding, and Azerbaijan remains in breach of its international law obligations by not complying with the ICJ’s order. Furthermore, we urge that the UN establish and send a fact-finding mission to Artsakh for a thorough analysis of data, on-site reporting, and engagement with local communities and organizations to identify and eliminate the consequences of the ongoing crime.

The prevention of genocide requires a collective effort, a unified resolve, and unwavering commitment from the international community. We urge the United Nations and its bodies to prioritize the prevention of genocide in Artsakh and take decisive action to protect the lives and dignity of thousands of innocent people.

Time is of the essence. We urge you to act swiftly and decisively, guided by the principles of the United Nations and the mandate to protect humanity from the scourge of genocide.

Respectfully signed,

Melanie O’Brien, Associate Professor of International Law, University of Western Australia; and President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars

Henry C. Theriault, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Worcester State University, Past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2017-2021)

Andrew Woolford, Professor, Head of Department of Sociology and Criminology, University of Manitoba, Past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2015-2017)

Israel Charny, Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, Past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2005-2007)

Armen Marsoobian, Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, Past First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2019-23)

Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Chair of Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College, Past First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2015-17)

Hervé Georgelin, Assistant Professor, Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Capodistrian University of Athens

Dr. Vasileios Meichanetsidis, Greek Genocide scholar

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