The Armenian Bar Association has submitted its Third Report to the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, to bring to continue to document the serious and worsening developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) region. The Third Report focuses on the numerous ways in which Azerbaijan has curtailed, and continues to curtail, the rights of Armenian-Christians to exercise their religion freely in their ancestral lands which Azerbaijan seized control of less than one year ago. The pattern of Azerbaijan’s conduct documented in this report includes: 1. Eliminating physical security for Armenians in Azerbaijani-occupied territories. 2. Blocking access of religious sites to Armenian-Christian pilgrims. 3. Intimidating clergy by isolating, harassing, and subjecting them to inhumane conditions. 4. Inhibiting access to foreign nationals of Armenian descent seeking to conduct religious pilgrimages. 5. Changing the character of Armenian religious sites, without seeking participation or input of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 6. Continuing destruction of religious sites that connect Armenians to the lands including churches and cemeteries.
The destruction of cultural heritage which we documented in our previous letters sits squarely within a broader systematic effort and pattern to: (i) deprive Armenians of the right to exercise their fundamental right to freely exercise their religion, (ii) cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh of Armenian people and worshippers, and (iii) erase the record of Armenian history and any evidence of Armenian presence from the region. This amounts to more than the anecdotal destruction of cultural and religious property by individual bad actors – it is part of a broader pattern and strategy orchestrated by Azerbaijan. Each of the human rights violations encompassed by this strategy deserves separate attention and condemnation.
We request that the Special Rapporteurs investigate, report, and call broader attention to these issues and similar human rights violations. To the extent possible, we urge the Special Rapporteurs to try to mediate and promote peace-building measures that (i) protect and respect access to religious sites for the performance of religious rites; and (ii) protect and respect the coexistence of multiple religious faiths and cultures.
This Third Report is also submitted on behalf of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Society for Armenian Studies, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, and the Association Internationale des Études Arméniennes, the Research on Armenian Architecture Foundation and Save Armenian Monuments.
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