August 2023 | Former ICC prosecutor warns of genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh
Former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo published a report arguing the ongoing Azerbaijani blockade of the disputed majority Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh should be considered genocide on 7 August. On 15 August, the Nagorno Karabakh Human Rights Defender’s Office said a man had starved to death, marking the first death as a result of the months-long blockade which has prevented food, medicine, fuel, and electricity from reaching the region. A UN Security council meeting on the crisis on 16 August failed to result in a statement, as Azerbaijan’s close ally and non-permanent member Turkiye disputed Armenia’s claims and defended Azerbaijan’s justification to blockade the region.
July 2023 | Rural environmental protest garners international attention
A peaceful protest by villagers from Soyudlu in north-central Azerbaijan against the expansion of a local mining project, which villagers complained for years had severely damaged local water supplies, was met with overwhelming force by armed riot police on 20 June. Videos spread across the internet and prompted intense media coverage and interest from domestic and international rights advocates. Journalists and lawyers who travelled to Soyudlu were detained, interrogated, and allegedly assaulted by police. In a rare move, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his sympathy with the villagers at a 11 July cabinet meeting and called the local environmental situation “utterly unacceptable”, blaming the local mining company and the environmental ministry. However, Aliyev also praised the police’s conduct, and the town remains largely cut off from the outside world by a police cordon and local residents report a heavy police presence inside the town.
June 2023 | Azerbaijan imposes total blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh
The Azerbaijani blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh in place since 12 December 2022 was expanded to include humanitarian convoys provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Russian peacekeepers on 15 June, completely cutting the region off from the outside world. The expanded blockade exacerbated existing food and medicine shortages and prevented the ICRC from evacuating patients in need of urgent care; the blockade was lifted on 25 June for the ICRC, two days after Russian peacekeepers airlifted a critically ill one-year-old child to Armenia. The blockade has been criticized as illegal by the European Parliament. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Azerbaijan of holding Karabakh’s population hostage, and Armenian Prime Minster Nikol Pashinyan called the blockade “a policy of ethnic cleansing.”
May 2023 | Empty seats prompt representation concerns
Despite promises from the Central Election Commission and a campaign by an opposition party to hold legally mandated special elections, seven seats in Azerbaijan’s 125-member parliament have been vacant for between one and three years. The lack of elections has been criticized by the lone opposition party with representation in parliament, with analysts citing the even further decline of parliament as an actual decision-making or representative body. Local analysts credited both government disinterest in the resurgence of political activity that accompanies elections, as well as public apathy towards the country’s electoral processes, which have become progressively less free and credible over the last twenty years.