Caspian Region

The International Court of Justice Tells Both Azerbaijan and Armenia to Tone Down the Ethnic Discord

The Caspian Post
Image: Ankor Light/Shutterstock

Back in September, Armenia and Azerbaijan turned their long-running disputes into tit-for-tat legal challenges at the ICJ (International Court of Justice). In both cases, one side claimed against the other for infringements of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). However, despite what one might have imagined from social media shouting matches, neither side officially accused the other of war crimes during the 2020 conflict in their ICJ depositions.


The Armenia against Azerbaijan hearing was held first (October 15) and that of Azerbaijan against Armenia four days later (October 19). But the court orders setting out “provisional measures” from the hearings were both announced on December 7.


The considerable length and circuitous legal language of the orders make the judgements far from easy reading. Even the summaries run to 8/10 pages Arm v Az/Az v Arm. However, in what is probably good news all around, both countries were told effectively to chill out. Or put in more formal terms, to take “necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred” against the people of the other. The judgements also demanded that both parties “refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute” or “make it more difficult to resolve.”


Concerning some of the more detailed grievances, it’s likely that Azerbaijanis will be a little happier overall than Armenians.


Azerbaijani commentators were pleased to note that the ICJ did not mandate the immediate release of those Armenian soldiers detained for encroachment into Azerbaijani lands since the end of the Second Karabakh War.





Armenian sources, while regretting that, were pleased to have the ICJ insist on the protection of any such detainees from “violence or other bodily harm.” They also underlined the ICJ’s invocation to protect Armenian monuments and cultural sites. 



However, this is something with which the Azerbaijani government already agrees, so Baku was rapid in accepting the findings. At the time of writing, Yerevan had apparently not made an official response.


Of course, the ICJ’s judges have little real-world power with which to enforce their judgements which, for now, remain “provisional.” A full case review could take years to complete, but is unlikely to significantly alter the findings.


Full texts of the provisional judgements can be read here (Arm v Az) and here (Az v Arm).