In the modern international legal system
Armine H. Tigranyan
In the course of its false quest to build a national identity and prove its territorial affiliation, Azerbaijan /since its inception/ has pursued a sharply anti- Armenian state policy based on the continuous destruction of Armenian identity and rich cultural heritage during both – the pseudo “peace” and the war. During all the wars in Artsakh, Azerbaijan continuously damages and destroys Armenian cultural values, thus violating a number of international provisions. The recent war has confirmed that Azerbaijan’s “territorial aspirations” are not an end in itself; they are based on the alienation and destruction of Armenian identity and heritage.
This article presents the international legal principles for protection of the cultural heritage (hereinafter referred to as CH) in the occupied territories from the point of view of cases of destruction, appropriation, desecration and vandalism of Armenian cultural property in the territories occupied by Azerbaijan after the Second Artsakh War (November 9, 2020).
The article begins with a historical overview, presents the gradual formation and development of the international legal field for protection of CH in the occupied territories after the war, as well as a number of conventional provisions from Hague Convention, Geneva Convention, UNESCO, the Council of Europe from the point of view of international human rights documents, norms of international humanitarian law and the laws that are customary for protection of cultural values in the occupied territories. This expertise also refers to the analysis of a clear program of the state policy of Azerbaijan on deliberate destruction of the Armenian identity and cultural heritage and summarizes the investigation of specific cases of destruction of Armenian cultural values, appropriations of heritage and desecrations by Azerbaijan after the war.
And since the protection of cultural values in the occupied territories is an internationally recognized norm, which is mandatory for all states, however Azerbaijan continues to violate and damage the Armenian cultural values. Azerbaijan continues to perceive the heritage from its own socio-cultural point of view and what is outside of their “value system” is considered as a subject for destruction. Along with values of great historical significance, the values created not long ago are also being destroyed in the territories of Artsakh occupied by Azerbaijan, the loss of which is equal to the destruction of historical ones.
The cultural heritage of the Armenians of Artsakh, as the materialized (and nonmaterialized) expression of exclusive creative thoughts of a given community, as well as a collective manifestation of the identity, has the full right to be preserved and passed on to future generations. This right is enshrined by UNESCO, UN and by the international humanitarian law and is considered as a fundamental right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however along with all this, it still continues to be destroyed, both physically and by the loss or alienation of the bearing communities.
And in fact, the study of this article shows that the most important factor in protecting the cultural heritage of Artsakh /along with numerous conventions on protection of cultural values in occupied territories/, is the right to protect the cultural heritage of Artsakh as such, being a fundamental human right enshrined in a number of international treaties, especially in international humanitarian law. And within this context, even if Azerbaijan cannot find any values in order not to destroy the heritage outside of its value system, the latter is obliged to do so, because that heritage is a part of the world cultural diversity and is the fundamental right of the culture (personal/community) of the Armenians of Artsakh.