Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Armenians demonstrate against Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan, October 22, 2020.

On May 10, Politico reported that the California-based Center for Truth and Justice sent a petition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accusing Azerbaijan of genocide against Artsakh Armenians (The ICC should consider the new Armenian genocide petition).

Never mind the fact that the 100,000 Armenians who recently left Karabakh and resettled in Armenia did so because they did not desire to live beside Azerbaijanis, and no one forced them to leave their homes at gunpoint. If they wanted to, they could peacefully coexist beside Azerbaijanis as citizens with equal rights, but they preferred to leave. Nevertheless, even though this is the case, some powerful Armenian lobbyists are claiming that this constitutes genocide, even though this does not fit the definition of genocide under international law.


According to the United Nations, “the word “genocide” was first coined by Polish lawyer Raph?el Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Lemkin developed the term partly in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust, but also in response to previous instances in history of targeted actions aimed at the destruction of particular groups of people. Later on, Raph?el Lemkin led the campaign to have genocide recognized and codified as an international crime.”

Article II of the Genocide Convention proclaims: “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  •  Killing members of the group;
  •  Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  •  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  •  Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  •  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”

Under the present definition of genocide under international law, Azerbaijan’s counter-terror operation was not genocide. Azerbaijan speedily reclaimed an area and demanded that the leadership turn themselves in, but they left the population alone to do as they liked. Most chose to leave on their own volition. Azerbaijan did not force them to stay, nor did they harm or molest them as they left. There were no massacres, rapes, cases of torture, and other instances of serious bodily harm reported among the Armenian civilians who left Karabakh of their own free accord to build up their future lives in Armenia proper.

While the separatist Armenian leadership among them Ruben Vardanyan was arrested, the Azerbaijanis had good reason to arrest them. Vardanyan faces charges under Articles 214.1 (financing of terrorism), 279.3 (participation in the creation and actions of armed formations or groups not stipulated by law), and 318.1 (illegal crossing of the state border of the Republic of Azerbaijan) of the Criminal Code and recently has his detention extended. The other members of the separatist leadership committed crimes of similar magnitude or worse, which the Azerbaijanis want to try them for.

Therefore, these people are not victims. On the contrary, Vardanyan is a Russian oligarch who decided to leave Putin’s inner circle to become a settler colonialist in the Karabakh region. He had no ties to the region other than the fact that his ancestors were Armenian. He was born and raised in Russia, not in the Karabakh region. However, because the Armenian community in Karabakh was mainly settled by settler colonialists who were planted there by Russian colonialists to advance Russia’s imperial interests since the 1800s and are not indigenous to this piece of land, this community of settler colonialists accepted this Putin insider as their leader and gave him the green light to commit crimes in their name.

Nevertheless, even though this community committed many crimes against Azerbaijanis such as illegally planting landmines that killed Azerbaijani civilians, attacking Azerbaijani soldiers, illegally extorting Azerbaijani natural resources, looting Azerbaijani homes, desecrating Azerbaijani lands, and the list goes on, the Azerbaijanis decided to treat this community with kids gloves. They only went after the leadership of the separatists and offered the common folks among the settlers an olive branch.

Therefore, Azerbaijan did not intend to destroy any national, ethnic, racial, or religious group when they waged their counter-terror operation. If Azerbaijan’s counter-terror operation that led to Azerbaijan’s reclamation of the Karabakh region under four UN Security Council resolutions is labeled to be genocide, then real cases of genocide will be devalued under international law. And for this reason, the ICC must ignore this petition sent out by the Center for Truth and Justice.

Azerbaijan has always been a multicultural, pluralistic, and tolerant society. To date, an Armenian church stands unmolested in the center of Baku. As Azerbaijan rebuilds the Karabakh region, they are making plans to restore the holy sites of all faiths and not just Muslim holy sites. Any Armenians who wish to live beside Azerbaijanis are most welcome. However, separatists will have to pay for their crimes, and punishing them does not constitute genocide under any definition. Therefore, I must emphasize that the settler colonialists of Karabakh are not victims. The real victims are close to one million Azerbaijanis who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in violation of four UN Security Council resolutions, who hopefully will be able to return to their homes soon in a rebuilt Karabakh.

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."