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Azerbaijan Faces Intl Backlash for Destruction of Armenian Church in Hadrut, Occupied Artsakh


Azerbaijan Faces Intl Backlash for Destruction of Armenian Church in Hadrut, Occupied Artsakh

Azerbaijan has been accused of violating international law by destroying the historic Saint Sargis Armenian Church in the Hadrut region of the occupied Artsakh. The demolition has been documented by the international organization for the protection of the Caucasian heritage, Caucasus Heritage Watch (CHW), which warns of the violation of the International Court of Justice's Court of Justice's decision.


The church, which dates back to the 18-19 centuries, was among the structures destroyed in the almost complete obliteration of Mokhrenes village during the summer of 2022. The village fell under Azerbaijani occupation following the 2020 44-day Artsakh war. The Saint Sargis Armenian Church, initially constructed in the 18th or 19th centuries, repurposed during the Soviet era, and later revived as a church in the 1990s, remained in active use until Armenians were forced to evacuate Mokhrenes.

The ruins of St. Sargis as seen in an August 23, 2022 SkySat image.
The ruins of St. Sargis as seen in an August 23, 2022 SkySat image.

Despite the demolition of the Saint Sargis Church, CHW's ongoing monitoring reveals that Azerbaijani intervention did not stop there. The organization has documented evidence of additional construction works, indicating a continued disregard for the region's cultural and religious heritage.


Azerbaijan is bound by international obligations to protect Armenian cultural heritage, including religious sites, and to prevent any attempts to erase centuries of Armenian cultural history in Mokhrenes. The destruction of the Saint Sargis Church in 2022, as noted by CHW, marked the first documented violation of the interim order issued by the International Court of Justice in December 2021.


The site of the former St. Sargis as seen in a WorldView03 image from September 26, 2023.
The site of the former St. Sargis as seen in a WorldView03 image from September 26, 2023.

The interim order, part of the ongoing case Armenia v. Azerbaijan, specifically directed Azerbaijan to "take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries, and artifacts."

The site of the former St. Sargis as seen in an October 22, 2023 SkySat image.
The site of the former St. Sargis as seen in an October 22, 2023 SkySat image.

The destruction of the Saint Sargis Church not only raises serious concerns about the preservation of cultural heritage but also brings into question Azerbaijan's adherence to international legal norms. The incident has sparked international backlash, with calls for accountability and urgent action to safeguard the rich Armenian cultural tapestry of the region.



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