The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia brings World Court case against Azerbaijan

The Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that “for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination,” including mass killings, torture and other abuses. The complaint charged that “Armenian cultural heritage has also been systematically destroyed, erased and falsified.” Armenia has requested the Court to take provisional measures “as a matter of extreme urgency” in order to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm.” (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Tbilisipride

Tbilisi Pride cancelled after right-wing attacks

LGBT activists in Georgia cancelled a Pride march in the capital Tbilisi after violent attacks from right-wing groups. Activists began five days of Pride celebrations last week which were to culminate in a “March for Dignity” in central Tbilisi, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. But as marchers were gathering, they were set upon by counter-protesters, who ransacked the office of the organizers. “The situation is really bad,” Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari told Thomson Reuters by phone, saying he is still being stalked and threatened by mobs, and that some members of his team have gone into hiding in fear for their lives. (Photo: Openly)

The Caucasus
Lake Sev

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan’s forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November’s ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times. (Photo: Albero/Wikimedia Commons via Armenian Weekly)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan arrests four soldiers for war crimes

The Azerbaijan Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it has detained four soldiers accused of war crimes against Armenians in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Two of the detained servicemen are accused of recording their “offensive acts” against the bodies of killed Armenian soldiers and sharing the videos via social media. The other two are accused of destroying Armenian gravestones in a village cemetery. They also apparently recorded their actions and shared the videos through social media. But the Prosecutor General’s report was careful to exonerate Azerbaijani officials, including President Ilham Aliyev, and claimed that some videos depicting war crimes “were found to be fake.” (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan to investigate possible war crimes

The prosecutor-general of Azerbaijan announced that his office is looking into allegations of war crimes during the recent conflict between his nation and Armenia over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has already raised the alarm about possible war crimes, issuing a statement decrying indiscriminate artillery shelling of populated areas, use of cluster munitions by both sides, and videos on social media that appear to show summary executions of captured Armenian soldiers by Azerbaijani troops. The two nations agreed to a Russian-brokered peace agreement last month, under which several districts that Armenia had seized from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union would be returned by December. (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Campaign to recognize Republic of Artsakh

Amid renewed heavy fighting over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the enclave’s capital, Stepanakert, is coming under heavy shelling by Azerbaijan. The self-governing enclave within Azerbaijan has since 1994 been under the control of ethnic Armenians, who constitute the majority there, and have declared the de facto Republic of Artsakh. The National Assembly of Artsakh issued a statement accusing Azerbaijan of intentionally targeting civilians and using banned weaponry such as cluster munitions. The statement also accused Turkey of directing the offensive, and backing it up with mercenary fighters. The National Assembly called upon the international community to formally recognize the Republic of Artsakh as “the most effective way to put an end to the ongoing grave crimes against the peaceful population of Artsakh, and to protect their rights.” (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
tovuz

Armenia-Azerbaijan border as regional flashpoint

Several have been killed in ongoing clashes that broke out along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani general is among the dead in the heaviest fighting between the two nations in years. Villages in Azerbaijan’s northern Tovuz rayon (district) have come under artillery fire by Armenian forces, causing property damage. Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting. But some see an Armenian design to involve Russia in the conflict. This time the fighting is not in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia does not have internationally recognized sovereignty. An attack there would fall outside the purview of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. Under Article 4 of the CSTO Charter, an attack on a member state is considered an attack against all members. (Photo: Axar.az)

The Caucasus
North Caucasus

Russia: raids on rights defenders in Dagestan

Police in southern Russia raided the homes and office of activists who provide legal and psychological assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch reports. The raids took place in Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, two cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region. The activists targeted are members of the Stichting Justice Initiative, a nongovernmental organization representing victims of rights abuses in the North Caucasus and survivors of domestic violence. Police seized computers and electronics containing documentation pertaining to their work. The court order sanctioning the search and seizure contained no information about any specific alleged offense that would have justified the action.  “These outrageous police raids show the poisonous climate for NGOs in Russia, and particularly in the North Caucasus,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. (Map: Wikitravel)

The Caucasus

Russia upholds Chechen-Ingush border agreement

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation upheld a decision to draw a border between the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya. In September the two republics signed an agreement to define the border between them. This was the first time that the border has been defined since the split of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic after the collpase of the USSR. The agreement became law in each republic in October, but a group of Ingush deputies challenged the law. The Chechen-Ingush border dispute has sparked violence in recent years, and been exploited by Islamists who seek to create a “Caucasus Emirate” covering both republics, a resurrection of the insurgent state established by Muslim rebels in the 19th century. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection?)

The Caucasus

Protest, polarization in ex-Soviet Georgia

A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi’s parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia’s government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure was building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark Inter­na­tion­al Day Against Homo­pho­bia—to be confronted by gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting “death to the enemy!” The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (Photo: OC Media)

The Caucasus

Chechen police state turns ire on druggies

Last year, horrific reports emerged from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya that authorities were rounding up gays in detainment camps and subjecting them to torture —the first time this kind of thing has happened in Europe since Nazi Germany. Now the reign of terror is being extended to drug users and small-time dealers, who are facing torture at the hands of Chechen security forces as part of the same ultra-puritanical campaign. Reports describe electric current being applied to suspects to induce them to “confess.” No one has survived without confessing, victims are told. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

The Caucasus
helsinki

Chechnya: concentration camps for gays?

Alarming reports are emerging that Chechyna has opened “the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler,” following a “gay purge” in the southern Russian republic. (Photo: Human Rights Campaign via Twitter)