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U.S. Congress Issues Urgent Plea: Recognize Genocide in Artsakh, Impose Demands on Azerbaijan

U.S. Congress Issues Urgent Plea: Recognize Genocide in Artsakh, Impose Demands on Azerbaijan

The United States Congress, through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, convened a crucial hearing on September 6 to address the dire situation in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), stemming from the blockade of the Lachin Corridor.

Chaired by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the hearing featured the esteemed international legal expert Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who issued a stark warning. He emphasized that the United States runs the risk of becoming complicit in an ongoing genocide unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh. Here, an estimated 120,000 Armenians find themselves cut off from essential supplies, enduring a dire shortage of food and medicine, and facing the threat of starvation at the hands of the Azerbaijani government.

The Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which serves as the sole route from Armenia to Artsakh, is argued to constitute genocide under Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention.

Representative Smith, who also serves as the Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, passionately called upon the Biden Administration to swiftly recognize this crisis as genocide and to take immediate action to put an end to it. He expressed his disappointment that both the US State Department and USAID had not responded to his invitation to testify at the hearing, stating, "Delay is denial."

Furthermore, Representative Smith unequivocally stated, "This crime—it is the crime of genocide—was planned, tested, and imposed by the government of Azerbaijan, that is to say by President Ilham Aliyev, who rules Azerbaijan as a dictator." Smith's history of advocating for human rights in Azerbaijan, which includes meetings with President Aliyev and the authoring of the Azerbaijan Democracy Act in 2015, underscores the gravity of the situation, as reported by Smith's office.

He continued, "The Biden Administration must wake up, recognize the absolutely grave responsibility it has here, and focus on finding and implementing a humane solution." Smith stressed the urgent need for the blockade to be lifted, allowing the people to continue living in their ancestral homeland without the looming specter of violence and threats. He emphasized the critical nature of the situation, describing it as a "three-alarm fire."

In addition to Ocampo's compelling testimony, the hearing featured David Phillips, the Director of Columbia University's Artsakh Atrocities Project and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Phillips, in his testimony, left no room for doubt as he remarked, "The language used by President Aliyev and his officials leaves no question about their genocidal intent." He presented extensive evidence, including a list of individuals responsible for the atrocities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

He also criticized the international community's failure to sanction those responsible for crimes committed after the wars in 2016 and 2020. Phillips argued that this failure sends a dangerous message to the Government of Azerbaijan, suggesting that it can act with impunity, evading repercussions for crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and acts of genocide.

Representative Smith, who previously chaired a hearing on the unfolding crisis in June, expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation. He questioned whether there exists within the US government the will to provide assistance, given that two-and-a-half more months of inaction have only exacerbated the crisis. He highlighted that, in August, during a special session of the Security Council, neither the US nor any other member took action to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

In a somber declaration, Smith voiced his concerns, stating, "Of course we know the Biden administration does not want this genocide to advance to a horrible consummation in the death of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh or to their ethnic cleansing, but that is exactly where events are headed."

Luis Moreno Ocampo concluded the hearing by emphasizing, "The US should openly inform the Azerbaijan government that without the immediate and unconditional removal of the Lachin Corridor blockade, the US would consider Azerbaijan to be committing genocide."


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