Nagorno Karabakh conflict: Recommit to inclusive peace, and protect lives and rights of civilians!

Nagorno Karabakh conflict: Recommit to inclusive peace, and protect lives and rights of civilians!

October 2, 2020

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) condemns the escalation of violence on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, in particular the killing of civilians. We call on the parties to renew their commitment to seeking an inclusive peace, end violence and resume peace negotiations. We further call on all parties to respect international human rights and humanitarian law, which require armed forces to distinguish between combatants and civilians at all times. 

The fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated drastically on September 27, 2020, with each side accusing the other of the escalation. Clashes continued since Sunday, and civilian casualties have been reported on both sides. Both countries have declared martial law and full or partial mobilization. In Azerbaijan, curfew was imposed and access to the internet has been limited. The escalation builds on the long-lasting conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed independence in 1991, but it has not been recognized by multilateral organizations, nor the United Nations Member States. Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire in 1994. However, low-intensity fighting and periodic flare-ups continued along the border. International observers and GNWP partners in Armenia and Azerbaijan say this escalation may be the worst since the 1994 ceasefire, and warn of the risk of a full-scale war.  

GNWP stands in solidarity with women peacebuilders on both sides of the conflict, who have been working tirelessly to achieve sustainable peace. We remain committed to supporting their peacebuilding efforts.

We call on the parties to heed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, and the UN Security Council’s call for an immediate stop to fighting. We also call on the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated resolution of the conflict, and to the peace processes mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group.

GNWP is deeply concerned by the reports of civilian casualties. We urge the parties to the conflict to observe their obligations under international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325. UNSCR 1325 obliges all parties to “respect fully international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls, especially as civilians.” Under the Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law, warring parties are required not to target civilians, nor allow the civilians to be harmed in indiscriminate attacks.

We strongly urge the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to ensure that the rights of their citizens are protected and respected, and that the martial law measures are not used to curtail the freedom of civil society actors, or shrink the space available to them.