Why The UN Has Got It Wrong On Genocide – OpEd


The UN is wrong about genocide taking place against the 50,000 Armenian population of the Azerbaijani region of Karabakh and even more wrong in denying genocide is taking place against 45 million Ukrainians. Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accused the UN of becoming a lobbyist for Russian interests.

Armenian use of the term ‘genocide’ is taken straight out of the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation toolkit. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2022 was based on fake news claims Georgians and Ukrainians were undertaking genocide against South Ossetians and the Donbas respectively. Armenians are using the same Kremlin disinformation rhetoric to falsely claim Azerbaijan is committing genocide in Karabakh.

It is ironic Armenia is misusing the term ‘genocide’ because Armenian forces committed many war crimes and human rights abuses in the First Karabakh War. These war crimes are not subject to investigation by the ICC as they took place before it was established in 2002. Armenian forces ethnically cleansed between 750,000 and one million Azerbaijanis from Armenia and the twenty percent of Azerbaijan they occupied for nearly three decades. 4,000 Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians are missing, presumably murdered during the First Karabakh War. Armenian occupation forces lay hundreds of thousands of mines and destroyed numerous cultural, historical, and religious buildings and desecrated cemeteries. Azerbaijan and Ukraine are the most mined countries in the world.

The small Armenian minority in Karabakh has been under pressure because it refuses to accept that the Karabakh region is Azerbaijani sovereign territory. 50,000 Armenians in Karabakh are holding hostage three million Armenians and ten million Azerbaijani’s by refusing to allow Yerevan to agree to signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.

Karabakh Armenians have refused to implement the ceasefire agreement that was signed at the end of the Second Karabakh War in November 2020. The ceasefire agreement clearly stated that Armenian forces, regular and paramilitary, had to withdraw from Azerbaijan at the same time as Russian peacekeepers deployed in Karabakh. This never happened and Yerevan continued to send military equipment and new forces illicitly and with the covert support of Russian peacekeeping forces to Karabakh. 

Nikol Pashinyan has been Armenian prime minister for five years and therefore he is directly responsible for Armenia not implementing the ceasefire agreement by illegally maintaining paramilitary forces in Karabakh. By illegally supplying paramilitary forces in Karabakh Pashinyan is not committed to a peace treaty.

None of the articles defining genocide in international law are applicable to policies undertaken towards Karabakh Armenians. Nevertheless, Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor wrote a report at the request of the head of the Karabakh Armenians claiming is ‘reasonable basis to believe that genocide is being committed against Armenians’ in Karabakh. ‘There are no crematories and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks,’ he said.

A counter report by Rodney Dixon KCcalled Ocampo’s claim of famine engineered by Azerbaijan to be ‘fundamentally flawed’ and he misrepresents the International Court of Justice (ICJ) proceedings. Dixon writes: ‘There is no evidence to substantiate a defining element of genocide, which has a high threshold as a matter of international law – the specific intent to physically destroy the group in whole or in part. The references in the Opinion do not address this cornerstone requirement. It is reckless for an expert to make accusations of genocide without any proof.’

Ocampo’s Opinion is ‘patently selective in the ‘facts’ to which is refers. It does not, for example, address Azerbaijan’s offer of an alternative transportation road (the ‘Aghdam- Khankandi route’) to supply the ethnic Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh.’ In addition, ‘Relevant factual circumstances that plainly undermine the Opinion’s conclusions are conveniently glossed over and not mentioned. The Opinion thus falls far short of being a balanced and comprehensive expert report.’

The five acts internationally defined as genocide include killings, causing serious harm, deliberately inflicting physically destructive conditions of life, imposing birth prevention measures and forcibly transferring children to another group. None of these five definitions of genocide are being undertaken by Azerbaijan against Armenians in Karabakh but all five are being undertaken by Russia against Ukrainians. Two reports by the Washington-based New Lines Institute and Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal said Russia’s genocidal plan ‘to destroy the Ukrainian national group in part may be demonstrated by the incitement to genocide driving the current invasion or by the striking patterns or methods of atrocities suggesting military policy.’ 

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova. The ICC has never investigated or considered indicting any Azerbaijani leaders.

Russia’s acts of genocide against Ukraine have included mass killings, deliberate attacks on shelters, evacuation routes, and humanitarian corridors, indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas, military sieges and deliberate and systematic infliction of life-threatening conditions, destruction of vital infrastructure, attacks on health care, destruction and seizure of necessities, humanitarian aid, and grain, rape and sexual violence against children, women and men, and the forcible transfer of Ukrainians. 

The first report by the two well-known think tanks describes ‘Russia’s State-orchestrated Incitement to Genocide’ as including the ‘denial of the existence of a Ukrainian Identity’by senior Russian officials and state media. The report argues that the ‘denial of the existence of protected groups is a specific indicator of genocide under the United Nations guide to assessing the risk of mass atrocities.’ 

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote, ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely setting conditions for the coerced cultural assimilation of displaced Ukrainians in Russia to erase their Ukrainian cultural identity.’3.5 million Ukrainians have been deported to Russia after processing through filtration camps and ending up inside Russian ‘adaptation centres’ where they are subjected to Russification and cultural assimilation. 

Unlike Russia’s denial of Ukrainians, Azerbaijan has never denied the existence of an Armenian nation! Azerbaijani leaders and media have never used Russian style genocidal discourse against Ukrainians in denying the existence of Armenians. 

Claims that a genocide is being undertaken by Azerbaijan against Armenians is patently false. Baku has merely insisted that the Armenian minority in Karabakh recognise Azerbaijani sovereignty and implement the security provisions of the 2020 ceasefire agreement. In contrast, Russian media and political discourse openly state their goal of genocide of Ukrainians while the actions of the Russian military and security forces implement this goal of genocide.

The UN is wrong in claiming a genocide is taking place against Karabakh Armenians and even more wrong in denying a genocide is taking place against Ukrainians. This approach discredits the UN as a professional and respected international organisation.

Dr. Taras Kuzio

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and an associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. He is the author of Genocide and Fascism. Russia’s War Against Ukrainians.

2 thoughts on “Why The UN Has Got It Wrong On Genocide – OpEd

  • September 15, 2023 at 2:02 am

    Dear called Professor Taras Kuzio, I wonder how much are Azeri Turks or other enemies of the Armenian nation are paying you to disperse your poisonous lies or theories or opinions?

  • September 15, 2023 at 4:54 am

    How can anyone take seriously such biased, false and openly anti-Armenian diatribe ? Is Taras Kuzio pretending to be blind or is he actually blind…and deaf…and mute, to quote the three monkeys?

    To sail smoothly over the crimes against humanity committed by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians, prisoners of war and now blockading an entire region home to 120,000 civilians ( and not 50,000… Mr. Kuzo’s desperate game of downplaying everything “Armenian”), is simply laughable. What is the point of this article? if it is to exonerate Azerbaijan from acting as a bloodthirsty and revengeful entity, the author does not succeed, if Mr. Kuzio’s intention is to look good for Baku’s despot Aliyev, then he succeeds 100%, proving Baku’s Caviar diplomacy in the works here.

    Mr. Kuzo is right in saying that Baku has merely insisted that the Armenian minority in Karabakh recognise Azerbaijani sovereignty, however, he simply forgets to mention about Baku’s overt “or else” threat that promises nothing short of imminent genocide. Yes, Mr. Kuzio a genocide.


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