March 19, 2009 - 18:44 AMT
U.S. State Department reports politically biased and untrue
US State Department's reports remained politically biased and partially inaccurate

Joint Statement of Nagorno Karabakh Youth NGOs criticized US State Department's 2008 Human Rights Reports on Armenia and Azerbaijan

On 25 February 2009 the US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor issued the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. As in previous years, these reports inter alia partially cover the region of Caucasus, including Armenia and Azerbaijan. We have read carefully these two country reports and made a number of observations which are summarized in our joint statement.

In general, we welcome the US State Department's attention to the human rights situation worldwide, and the particular attention paid to our region. We would encourage other governments, including those of our region, to follow the example set by the United States in mainstreaming human rights into their institutional practices and reporting cycles. Government-produced reports, however, must be free of political biases, partiality and preconceptions; otherwise they may quickly lose their credibility and be seen by the public as yet another instrument of unfair political pressure in international relations.

In this regard, it is very unfortunate that as in previous years, the US State Department's reports remained politically biased and partially inaccurate. Instead of reporting on human rights situation and violations per se, the reports on Armenia and Azerbaijan contain a number of ambiguous political statements which demonstrate lack of understanding of the causes and consequents of the disintegration of the USSR, the independence of the Caucasian states and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Both reports contain misleading statements that "ethnic Armenian separatists […] continued to control most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region"; these clauses entirely neglect the fact that the so-called "Armenian separatists" are in fact the aboriginal population of Nagorno-Karabakh, and what they "control" is in fact their ancestral land and their right to live in their fatherland free of the oppressive Azerbaijani regime.

Today many international independent human rights experts and researchers accept the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh is far more advanced in democracy, rule of law and human rights as compared to Azerbaijan. Since the independence day, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have effectively exercised their right to elections and political participation by freely electing three successive presidents. In the meantime, the citizens of Azerbaijan were denied of similar rights and were forced to vote in favor of the Aliyev clan in fake elections that were largely seen as neither free nor fair. The oppressive authoritarian state machinery of Azerbaijan can be no match to the dynamically developing democratic institutions of Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, extreme Armenophobia and propaganda of hatred against Armenians became part of Azerbaijan's state policy. Hatred against Armenians in today's Azerbaijan can be compared to the anti-Semitic hysteria in the Nazi Reich and in some respects exceeds the latter. The above-mentioned reports of the State Department ignored these obvious significant disparities between the level of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

The mentioned reports also failed to recognize today's realities by neglecting the existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is one of the very few countries in Eastern Europe created in the most democratic manner, i.e. through the popular referendum and by the free will of people. The reports on Armenia and Azerbaijan keep referring to Nagorno-Karabakh, as a "region of Azerbaijan", which is a factual error. Nagorno-Karabakh was never a region of the independent Azerbaijani state and in the past was forced under the jurisdiction of Communist Azerbaijan by the criminal Stalinist regime. It is very disturbing that human rights reports of a respectable state institution second the Stalinist regime's criminal legacy and effectively overlook the 1988-1990 acts of genocide (in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad) against Armenians in Azerbaijan, as well as the consequences of the Azerbaijani aggression and the failed attempt to commit a new genocide against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Other factual errors in the two mentioned reports are also associated with the consequences of the Azerbaijani aggression. The report on Azerbaijan refers to the "IDPs", which is a factual error; most of those referred to are in fact refugees. While mentioning the Azerbaijani refugees, whose number totals at 500,000 to 600,000 (i.e. much less than the official Azerbaijani propaganda figures disseminated around the world), the report neglects the Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan and the IDPs from the Azerbaijani-occupied Shahumian district of the NKR, whose combined number is at least 400,000. This may be seen as a clear manifestation of double standards. The same report further mentions the "displaced Meskhetian Turks… from the Lachin region controlled by Armenia-supported Nagorno-Karabakh". It fails to clarify as to what business did the "Meskhetian Turks" have in Nagorno-Karabakh - where they never lived before - and who in fact were cynically abused by the Azerbaijani leadership in an attempt to dramatically change the demographic situation in the region. This reference is yet another proof that prior to the conflict Azerbaijan was trying to conduct de-Armenization and Turkification of the traditionally Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh, which in fact was one of the causes of the conflict.

The reports on Armenia and Azerbaijan also make ambiguous references, which can be misleading for the uninformed readers. For example, the report on Armenia states that "on June 17 and 18, two civilians who were residents of the village of Chinari in the Tavush region were shot by snipers while working in their fields; they died on June 18." Uninformed readers could assume that these civilians were shot at by Armenian snipers, which is not true; in fact the civilians were targeted by the Azerbaijani snipers across the border, which in itself is a violation of the cease-fire agreement by the Azerbaijani side. Failure to specify this and similar facts makes the report vague and in some respects useless, because the perpetrators of human rights violations (in this case those violating the right to life) do not feel any pressure to cease their criminal practices.

The report on Azerbaijan further states that "during the year shootings along the militarized line of contact separating the sides as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict again resulted in numerous casualties on both sides." While it is undeniable that the Armenian side sometimes uses snipers in the cross-border shooting - which we certainly condemn - any unbiased observer would confirm that such sniper shooting incidents are much more frequently initiated by Azerbaijan. The same stands for the number of abductions and disappearances; such actions are mostly carried on by the Azerbaijani side.

We strongly believe that the outside attention to human rights record and practices in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan can be an important factor making the governments of these three states more vigilant and sensitive to human rights. While reiterating that we welcome in principle the US State Department's reporting on human rights situation in our region, we regret to see the repeated political biases and factual inaccuracies in the latest reports, which seriously undermine the value of these documents and make them yet another failed opportunity to set the record straight and make the United States seen as an objective observer and fair mediator.

Defenders of Homeland - Union of Freedom Fighters of Artsakh
Club of Young Political Scientists of Artsakh
"Hayki Serund" (Hayk's Generation) Public Organization
"Armenian Youth Club" Public Organization
Alpha and Omega Public Organization - Youth Branch
Zephyr Public Organization
Democratic Party of Artsakh - Youth Branch