Azerbaijan files case alleging ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Armenia

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Azerbaijan on Thursday filed a case at the United Nations’ top court accusing neighboring Armenia of a “policy of ethnic cleansing” targeting Azerbaijanis.

The case was lodged at the International Court of Justice a week after Armenia filed suit against Azerbaijan at the same Hague-based world court, accusing Baku of a “state-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred.”

Both cases focus on the two countries’ decades long territorial dispute that erupted into armed conflict again last year, leaving hundreds dead.

Referring to that eruption of hostilities, Azerbaijan alleged in its written filing that “Armenia once again targeted Azerbaijanis for brutal treatment motivated by ethnic hatred,” the court said in a statement.

“Armenia’s policies and conduct of ethnic cleansing, cultural erasure and fomenting of hatred against Azerbaijanis systematically infringe the rights and freedoms of Azerbaijanis, as well as Azerbaijan’s own rights,” the case alleges. It accuses Armenia of breaching an international convention aimed at eradicating discrimination.

Armenia last week cited the same convention in bringing its case to the court, which handles disputes between nations. Both countries have signed the convention.

The legal dispute is the latest battle over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government for more than a quarter of a century.

The predominantly Armenian-populated region had an autonomous status within Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. Tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris boiled over as the Soviet Union collapsed. Conflict broke out in 1988 when the region tried to join Armenia, and escalated into war after the 1991 collapse of the USSR, leaving an estimated 30,000 dead and displacing about 1 million.

Azerbaijan asked the court to urgently order so-called “provisional measures” aimed at compelling Armenia to “protect Azerbaijanis from the irreparable harm caused by Armenia’s ongoing conduct.” Armenia made a similar request last week aimed at protecting its interests while the case is heard.

Cases at the court often take years, but hearings on the two requests for provisional measures will likely be scheduled in coming weeks.