UN calls for 'urgent ceasefire' in Karabakh

Published October 9, 2020
STEPANAKERT: Men walk beside an unexploded rocket during fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. — AFP
STEPANAKERT: Men walk beside an unexploded rocket during fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. — AFP

The United Nations rights chief voiced alarm Friday at civilian suffering in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after nearly two weeks of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, calling for an “urgent ceasefire”.

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said it was “deeply worrying that in recent days we have seen populated areas reportedly targeted and shelled with heavy weaponry in and around the conflict area.” There was a need for “an urgent ceasefire due to the impact on civilians,” the statement said.

Her comment came as Armenia and Azerbaijan's foreign ministers were due to meet in Moscow on Friday amid hopes they could broker a halt to the renewed hostilities.

The fresh fighting over Karabakh — an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke from Baku's control in what prompted a devastating war in the early 1990s — erupted late last month.

Both sides blame the other for the biggest outbreak in violence since a 1994 ceasefire.

Bachelet's office said it had received reports that it had not yet been able to verify that some 53 civilians, including children, had been killed in the fighting since September 27.

Some 400 lives have so far been lost including military casualties, and thousands of people have fled their homes.

“I remind all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Bachelet said.

'Mutually dehumanising'

All sides in the conflict have an obligation to avoid “the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas,” she added.

Bachelet also appealed to countries “with influence over parties to the conflict ... to do everything within their power to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.” Bachelet voiced particular outrage over reports that cluster munitions had been used in the conflict area.

“Cluster munitions scatter small, often bright or colourful bomblets over wide areas, many of which fail to explode immediately but can then kill and maim for years afterwards,” she pointed out.

“The use of such munitions should stop immediately.” The UN rights chief also called on all sides to refrain from using “inflammatory, pejorative or discriminatory language to stoke divisions.”

“Hate speech leads nowhere but to a mutually dehumanising and destructive hatred that, as we tragically see now, periodically erupts into conflict and loss of life,” she said.

And she warned that the violence could hamper efforts to rein in the spread of Covid-19 in the region.

Opinion

On writing

On writing

There is no ceremony or ritual that marks any person as a writer except the simple yet unimaginably significant act of starting to write.

Editorial

A way forward
Updated 17 Jul, 2024

A way forward

Before political leaders inflict more damage, they must give talks a chance.
Export delusions
Updated 18 Jul, 2024

Export delusions

Plummeting exports as a ratio of GDP is one of the major reasons driving the current economic slowdown and the balance-of-payments crisis.
Diversity in UK politics
17 Jul, 2024

Diversity in UK politics

THE recent UK elections have ushered in the most diverse parliament in the nation’s history. Under the leadership...
Banning PTI
Updated 16 Jul, 2024

Banning PTI

It appears that the govt and its backers within the establishment have still not realised that they are in uncharted territory.
Nato at 75
16 Jul, 2024

Nato at 75

EMERGING from the ashes of World War II, and locked in confrontation with the Soviet-led Communist bloc for over ...
Non-stop massacres
16 Jul, 2024

Non-stop massacres

Netanyahu is cunningly pretending to talk peace while mercilessly pounding Gaza. What is clear is that a return to pre-Oct 7 status quo is impossible.