By Sara Rajabova
Deputy Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN Tofig Musayev has said the impunity of Armenian criminals after committing the Khojaly massacre continues to impede progress in achieving the long-awaited peace and reconciliation between the two countries.
The UN Security Council held an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, on February 12.
At the meeting, Musayev said Azerbaijan supports the continuing efforts to raise awareness of the problem of internal displacement and the right of return.
He noted that despite the crimes committed by the Armenian armed forces, the perpetrators still remained unpunished.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Yves Daccordalso stressed the importance of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
"The period from 1991 until the establishment of the ceasefire in 1994 was marked by an increase in the magnitude, intensity and consistency of the attacks on Azerbaijani civilians. In February 1992, the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly was completely razed to the ground and its civilian population was subjected to an unprecedented massacre by the invading Armenian forces," Musayev said.
"My country's familiarity with the suffering of civilians in armed conflict is not based on hearsay. The forcible deportation of more than 200,000 Azerbaijanis from their homes in Armenia at the end of the 1980s was accompanied by killings, torture and other crimes. Even children were not spared," Musayev said.
Noting despite the formal ceasefire, deliberate attacks against Azerbaijani civilians and civilian objects have become more frequent and more violent over recent months, Musayev said even the calls from the UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and other members of the international community to observe the Olympic Truce during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi did not prevent the Armenian side from escalating the situation along the frontline.
"Azerbaijan strongly condemns all attacks against civilians. They should not pay the price for the lack of progress in the settlement process. In that context, it is important that the Security Council, Member States and regional organizations ensure that peace efforts, inter alia, contribute to ensuring accountability, including by encouraging the parties concerned to envisage transitional justice and reparation clauses in peace agreements. It is essential that such efforts and peace agreements under no circumstances encourage the acceptance of situations achieved by the unlawful use of force and other serious violations of international law, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing," Musayev said.
Responding to allegations of an Armenian representative, Musayev said attempts by Armenia to disguise its aggression and thereby to assert its innocence for crimes committed against Azerbaijani civilians are unlikely to be taken seriously, given the incontrovertible evidence testifying to the diametrically opposite situation.
He said the arguments of the Armenian side are particularly astonishing as they sound in the Security Council, which in 1993 adopted a series of four resolutions condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories by the Armenian forces, reaffirming respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the international borders of Azerbaijan and demanding immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all its occupied territories.
Musayev noted while trying to accuse Azerbaijan of alleged "anti-Armenian propaganda" and referring to ambiguous, politically motivated and groundless interpretations of the Khojaly massacre, the representative of Armenia at the same time not only refrains from commenting on the views expressed by the European Court of Human Rights, authoritative international non-governmental organizations and eyewitnesses of the tragedy, but also neglects to clarify the revelations of his own country's high-ranking officials and the direct participants in the crime, who in turn unequivocally admitted their responsibility for the extermination of the inhabitants and defenders of Khojaly.
In 1992, the town of Khojaly, the second largest town in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, came under intensive fire from the towns of Khankendi and Askeran already occupied by the Armenian armed forces.
613 civilians with 106 women, 70 elderly and 83 children were killed in the massacre. Meanwhile, a total of 1,000 civilians were disabled. Eight families were exterminated, 25 children lost their both parents and 130 children one parent. Moreover, 1,275 innocent people were taken hostage, the fate of 150 of them remains unknown. Civilians were shot at close range, scalped and burned alive. Some had their eyes gouged out and others were beheaded.
Musayev said Armenia's widespread, deliberate and systematic policy of aggression and hatred is clearly reflected in the famous interview of 15 December 2000 with the then Defense Minister, now the incumbent President of Armenia.
"Responding to the question as to whether things could have happened differently and whether he had any regrets about the deaths of thousands of people as a result of the Armenian attacks against Azerbaijani civilians, he said frankly: "I have absolutely no regrets", since "such upheavals are necessary, even if thousands have to die". No further comments are needed here to explain the logic and the attitude of the Armenian leadership to the issue of civilian protection and the peaceful settlement of the conflict," Musayev said.
Armenia occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions, after laying territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor that caused a brutal war in the early 1990s. Long-standing efforts by US, Russian and French mediators have been largely fruitless so far.
As a result of the military aggression of Armenia, over 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, 4,866 are reported missing and almost 100,000 were injured, and 50,000 were disabled.
The UN Security Council has passed four resolutions on Armenian withdrawal from the Azerbaijani territory, but they have not been enforced to this day.