Statement on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide
February 26, 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide - one of the most heinous crimes committed against the civilian population during the decades of the armed aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan, and its most tragic page. Before the conflict, Khojaly, located in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, was a home to over 7,000 people: men, women, children, families.
From October 1991, the town was surrounded by the armed forces of Armenia. Overnight, from 25th to 26th February 1992, following massive artillery bombardment of Khojaly, the armed forces of Armenia, with the help of the 366th mechanized infantry regiment of the former USSR of which the majority of servicemen were Armenians, forcibly seized control of Khojaly. Invaders destroyed the city and, with particular brutality, committed genocide against its civilian population.
5,379 inhabitants of the city were forcefully expelled. 613 people, including 63 children, 106 women and 70 elderly citizens, were brutally murdered. 1,275 were taken hostage and tortured in captivity, and 487 suffered various injuries. The fate of 150 of those captives, including 68 women and 26 children, remains unknown to this day. The criminal actions of the armed forces of Armenia tore families apart. Eight families were completely exterminated. While 130 children lost one of their parents, 25 children were left with no surviving parent at all.
The genocide in Khojaly was the result of the policy of ethnic hatred and racial discrimination against Azerbaijanis for decades conducted at the state level in Armenia which resulted in slaughtering of innocent people based solely on their ethnicity.
The Khojaly massacre and other crimes committed by Armenia in the course of its aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, constitute the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. These include blatant violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and others.
So far, the national legislative bodies of 17 countries, as well as 24 States of the USA, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Organization of Turkic States have adopted a number of resolutions and decisions condemning the massacre of civilians in Khojaly and characterizing it as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide.
In its judgment of 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights arrived at an important conclusion with respect to the crimes committed in Khojaly, denouncing the behaviour of those carrying out the atrocities as “acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
Under international law, States have not only a responsibility but a clearly defined legal obligation to investigate atrocities such as those committed by Armenian forces in Khojaly and prosecute the perpetrators. However, to date none of those responsible for the crimes committed in Khojaly has been brought to justice by Armenia.
Armenia’s former Defence Minister and ex-President, Serzh Sargsyan, was quoted by the British journalist Thomas de Waal, as saying, “before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that ... the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype]”. Thus, though inadvertently, he admitted responsibility of Armenia for this crime.
Deliberate targeting of the Azerbaijani civilian population and civilian infrastructure continued during a new phase of the armed aggression conducted by the armed forces of Armenia in autumn of 2020. Azerbaijani cities such as Ganja, Barda, Terter, which were located at a considerable distance from the war zone, came under deliberate attack by Armenia’s army with the use of modern types of weaponry, including long-range artillery, multiple launcher rocket systems, tactical ballistic missiles and cluster munitions. During the 44-day combat operations in the autumn of 2020 more than 100 Azerbaijani civilians lost their lives about 700 civilians were injured.
The Republic of Azerbaijan believes that consistent measures taken at the national level, as well as within the framework of existing international law, will serve to end impunity and bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes committed during Armenia's aggression against Azerbaijan. This will serve to prevent other similar crimes in our region and beyond in the future.
We take this opportunity to remember the victims of the Khojaly massacre and commit their sacrifice to our collective national memory. May they rest in peace.