Secretary General of Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM
The month of February, by the irony of history, is notorious in the modern history of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Maybe just a few among the broad international community would recognize the date of February 26, 1992. But I doubt if they would find its connection with February 24, 2022.
On February 26, 1992, a terrible crime was committed on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a massive massacre of the civilian population of the small town of Khojaly. This act of genocide was conducted during the foreign aggression and war imposed on the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Republic of Armenia and its patrons.
As a result of that brutal aggression, a fifth of the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan was occupied for nearly three decades and subjected to complete destruction. Over thirty thousand were killed, and about a million Azerbaijanis in three decades lived under the status of refugees and IDPs because of the war and ethnic cleansing.
Though some parallels and similarities can be drawn between what happened then in February of 1992 and 30 years after, on 24/02/2022, one would ask –- how they are related to each other, and where is the connection.
The answer lies in the legal plane. I’m confident that 24/02/2022 has occurred only because what happened on 26/02/1992 has remained unaddressed and unanswered by the international community. Till now, those terrible crimes against humanity have not received an objective legal assessment, and necessary measures were not undertaken to make the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. OPENLY AND PUBLICLY!
And this was regardless that the international law was on the side of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and there were four famous Resolutions of the UNSC demanding full, immediate, and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces from Azerbaijan.
If crimes committed during that war, in 1992, namely, the crime of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide would be properly addressed by the international community with all the strictness of the law, and the perpetrators brought to justice then this would have prevented further crimes. It would have set an important precedent!
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, and it opened the door for new crimes. Because we know well that impunity for crimes will always repeat itself with more crimes, bigger in scale and implications. Subsequently, we saw similar crimes have been repeated in the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and lastly, in the ugliest and most barbaric form, in Ukraine.
The international system and its institutions which were supposed to be guardians and guarantors of peace and order failed to prevent all the tragedies that the GUAM nations lived through. Instead, we witnessed neglect and disrespect to the norms and principles of international law and declared values, their substitution with the right of more powerful, self-interests of corrupted European elites and big democracies. That led to implying of double standards, frivolous interpretation of law and events, manipulations of public opinion, lies and hypocrisy, keeping a blind eye on the committed crimes and the appeasements of perpetrators, division of nations into zones and spheres of influence in the geopolitical games, etc.
International mediations for the so-called conflict resolution in all the above cases were a mere farce. That is why, when all the hopes of the Azerbaijani people for a just settlement after long decades of patience were dashed, the nation opted for the liberation of illegally occupied territories through means allowed by the UN Charter.
All above-mentioned led to the erosion of the foundations of the system of international relations, ethics, and morale in politics, undermining the global security order. All the blood and sufferings of the people will stick as a stamp of shame on the leading powers, the international community, and its institutions. The system lost its credibility and trust and should be reformed!
Just imagine what would happen if Ukrainian resistance would have been broken during the first days and weeks of the invasion. All global leaders were ready to accept yet another crime and continue in their convenience their usual practices. It is only the resilience and resistance of the people of Ukraine that changed the course of events on the ground, and most likely the course of history!
Therefore, only the victory of Ukraine in the ongoing war and full implementation of the proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Peace Formula can set such an important precedent and change the world once and forever. It is only if all elements of the Peace Formula are implemented, and most importantly, perpetrators brought to justice, only then we can talk about the restoration of credibility and trust towards the rules-based system and order.
The first important step in that direction was made on February 24, 2023, as the result of the voting at the UNGA emergency special session on the war against Ukraine. I congratulate Ukraine on this victory, though a symbolic one.
NB! It is not only the crimes on the soil of Ukraine that should be addressed and judged, but also on all other mentioned soils, – in the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Including, first and foremost, the crimes committed in Khojaly on February 26, 1992! Crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations! Only this way the vicious circle of crimes will be closed, and justice restored!
This is why these two dates are so closely connected.
On February 26, Azerbaijan will mark the 31st Anniversary of the tragedy of Khojaly. I want to extend my deepest, sincere condolences to the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion! I also want to honour the memory of all the victims of crimes of aggression and war in Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, for all the injustices and suffering! Eternal memory to all the innocent victims! A lasting memory to all those who gave their lives defending the freedom and independence of our nations!