Category: Human Security

The Khojaly Massacre: An Unforgettable Episode of the History

The Khojaly Massacre: An Unforgettable Episode of the History

The cruel tragedy against the innocent civilians of Azerbaijan is commemorated from people around the world. February 26th, 1992 marks as the worst morning in the history of Azerbaijan.  Its 27th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide:  a historical crime against humanity by the Armenian forces in Azerbaijan. It would not be considered as an understatement that it was one of the most brutal acts of terrorism of a state against another state. Hundreds of Azerbaijanis were mowed down in their home town of Khojaly (a strategically located Azerbaijani town on the Agdam-Shusha and Hankendi (Stepanakert)-Askeran roads in Nagorno-Karabakh region) by the Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. A little town which constitutes of about 7,000 populations was viciously turned into flames and mayhem. They forgave no one; men, women, children, elderly, they all were killed brutally. All that was done on that night of 25th-26thFebruary 1992 in Khojaly had a long history. 

From very early times up to the 19thcentury, this region of Nagorno-Karabakh was part of different Azerbaijani states and was densely populated with Azerbaijanis. After the signing of Gulustan and Turkmanchy treaties in 1813 and 1828, according to which Southern Azerbaijan was given to Iran and Northern Azerbaijan to Russia, Armenians started to settle in bulks in the Azerbaijani lands from Turkey and Iran.  Late 18thcentury and early 19thcentury was the time when Armenians appeared in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The process of resettlement of Armenians on the Azeri lands ended up with creation of Armenia on the historical territories of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with Nagorno-Karabakh as a territorial part of it came into being in 1918 but the independence lasted for only 1 year and 11 months. And after 71 long years, Azerbaijan finally regained its independence on October 18th, 1991. 

However, with the support of USSR leadership, the Armenians raised the territorial claims to Azerbaijan asking for the Nagorno-Karabakh district. As a result of it, interethnic disputes erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Hence, approximately 300,000 Azerbaijanis were thrown out from Armenia. Moreover, Armenians by invading Nagorno-Karabakh along with 7 other districts of Azerbaijan made the situation more hostile. The Armenians started ethnic-cleansing in these areas and as a result of that around 20,000 Azeris lost their lives. And so, the Khojaly Massacre in an ill-fated small town of Nagorno-Karabakh district by the Armenians was the most terrible episode in the Azerbaijan’s history. 

Armenian armed forces with the support of the 366thmotorized infantry regiment of former USSR, committed an unimaginable, heinous crime against Azeris. Because of that aggression about 613 civilians were killed, including 70 elderly persons, 106 women, and 83 small children. In addition, around 1,275 persons were taken prisoner and subjected to severe torture and humiliation and approximately 1000 civilians were left disabled. Of those who died, 56 persons were killed with extreme brutality: as they were scalped, beheaded, their eyes were gouged out, set on fire alive, and pregnant woman were stabbed in the abdomen. Human Rights Watch (HRW), described the event in Khojaly as “the largest massacre to date in the conflict.” 

It is necessary to know the Armenians driving goals behind all that: 

  1. One of the main goals of Armenian armed forces was the “liquidation of Khojaly” and as it was said by one of the commanders of this genocide Serzh Sargsian, who is presently the President of Armenia, “…our aim was to break a stereotype that Armenians cannot annihilate civil population”.
  2. The razing of Khojaly as it was an inhabited place. Armenians destroyed the historical cultural monuments and graveyards of Khojaly which reflected the history and traditions of Azerbaijan since the ancient times. 

These are the obvious examples of Armenian barbarism and aggression against the world culture and humanity.

Still, the two and a half decades old brutal episode is looking for the justice; as no appropriate legal assessment was given to that event. The facts and evidence of Khojaly Massacre, an act of war crime which led to Srebrenica Massacre in 1995, were never seriously followed by the relevant international bodies. Many of those who are responsible for the massacre still remain inside Armenia and the occupied regions of Azerbaijan. Both the countries signed a ceasefire in 1994. The ongoing occupation of Azerbaijani territories despite 4 UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) badly hampers the efforts of international community to bring lasting peace to the region.

Azerbaijani nation is in a continuous struggle for justice and waiting for a peaceful settlement with the Armenians. Azerbaijan being a peace loving country does not advocate war; rather they want the international community to look into the issue as no crime should be remained unpunished. The Armenians should handover the Azeri territory to the Azeri people. The call of the innocent civilians who survived that barbarian act should be attended now. 

Pakistan has always been criticizing such massacres on international forums and also recognizes Khojaly as genocide. On February 1st, 2012, Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a resolution condemning the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan and the genocide against Azerbaijani civilians committed by Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly on 26 February 1992.

The committee has also reaffirmed the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders, and demands the execution of four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884) on the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Pakistan is always with the Azerbaijan in its continuous struggle for justice. The international community needs to take vigorous steps to address the massacre in a rightful manner and ensure that such instances never occur in the future. They should provide Azerbaijan with monetary aid and ensure its border securities. Secondly, the issue of occupied territories by needs to be addressed under the settings of ICJ and rightful ownership of state lands within Azerbaijan should be given back either by forceful removal of Armenian forces or by legal declaration. Recently, Armenians has violated the ceasefire again and such developments only create loopholes for similar incidents to occur again. Armenians time and again violating the Human Rights law. This and many other cases in the world shows the weaker picture of the international bodies responsible for ensuring the peace and stability of our beloved globe. The UN needs to address the Khojaly issue timely to prevent further violation of human rights and protect Azerbaijan’s national security and integrity. 

The Unmanned War

The Unmanned War Featured

There was a time when wars were fought with swords and cavalry, and then came the age of early modern warfare with the excessive use of gunpowder which had a major impact on the way war was fought, or as Wendell Phillips likes to put it that “What gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind”. Today, the art of warfare is even more modernized with the help of information technology and advancement in sciences, and the way war is fought today is beyond the imagination of a person from a early modern era. The current age of warfare includes the use of “unmanned combat aerial vehicle” (UCAV), or in laymen terms known as the Drone. Over the last decade, drone has played a huge role, in particular for United States, on “War against Terrorism” after the catastrophic 9/11 attack. The countries affected by this policy of United States are Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. But one question that arises here is that this excessive use of drone attacks by United States on other states; is it even legal according to International Law? In this paper, I will be looking at the reason and legality of drone attacks in Pakistan, and why it is not a firm solution to end terrorism in the region.
First of all, it is important to understand the reason and legality behind the drone attacks in Pakistan. Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary execution, raises his worry against the attacks carried out by United States, since he believe it works as a challenge for International Law. Heyns expressed his stance at the conference, where at that moment a Pakistani ambassador was present as well, who stated that
“We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.”
However, Christof Heyns failed to address the issue of legality here, because if Pakistan is condemning the attacks in UN, doesn’t that mean the drone attacks are taking place by United States’ unilateral will? If that’s the case, it must be clear that United States is violating the UN Charter’s Article 2(4) which states that:
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations
It is not just the violation of UN Charter, but it is also a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, says Ben Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.6 The first drone attack in Pakistan happened in June 2004, and up until October 2012; around 334 drone attacks took place in Pakistan.8 One may ask that if it is a breach of Pakistan’s independence and the UN Charter, why is there a huge record of drone attacks that took place in Pakistan? The search for legality behind this makes one think how controversial and tangled the situation is.
The drone attacks are usually conducted in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which shares its border with Afghanistan. It is said that Taliban fighters from Afghanistan took refuge in FATA, where they further allied with Pakistani Taliban, and made their stronghold there, and launched attacks in different areas within Pakistan.9 The control of government of Pakistan over FATA is rather nominal, and the lack of ability to fight terrorists in that region was seen as a failure by the American administration, this is the point when the American policy to use drone attacks developed.
“The primary objective of the air campaign has been to disrupt Al Qaeda’s external network and prevent the group from striking at the US and her allies”. Another reason that is given is to stop the “Pakistani Taliban commanders who threaten the stability of the Pakistani state”.
These reasons mentioned can be seen as why the drone attacks take place in FATA region of Pakistan, but what about its legality? Sean D. Murphy discusses the legality of the issue, and states that there are three ways through which it can be legal; if the actions are taken with the consent of Pakistan, authorized by a UN Security Council Resolution, self-defence against Non-State actors, or as self-defence against Pakistan itself. Starting with the consent of Pakistan, this part is rather like a grey area. In 2008, Washington Post claimed that when the new chief of Pakistan’s intelligence service visited Washington to talk with USA’s head of military and intelligence staff, they had a secret understanding or consensus on the use of drone attacks. However, then-Pakistani government have openly said that these attacks are violation of their sovereignty, and have taken place without their consent. Now there is a possibility that then-Pakistani government was not unveiling the reality to the people of Pakistan, while they were making deals with United States behind closed doors. Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2008, Yousaf Raza Gillani, said to Anne Paterson, then-United States Ambassador to Pakistan, that:
“I don’t care if they do it (drone strikes) as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
The current government responded when asked if they have a deal with United States, they openly said that there might be some kind of understanding with previous government; the spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said “We regard such strikes as a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. They are also counter-productive.” In a nutshell, it can be concluded that there is no common grounds between United States and Pakistan because of unavailability of a legal document which will say otherwise.
Coming to the UN Security Council, the UN Charter Chapter VII allows the Security Council to “decide upon measures necessary for maintaining or restoring peace and security”. After the 9/11 attacks, many resolutions were adopted by UN in relation with Afghanistan, but none of them allowed United States for operations in Pakistan, hence there is no evidence of UNSCR allowing the drone attacks in Pakistan legally. Only way it may be justified is on the basis of “individual or collective self-defence” against a non-state actor. Article 51 of the UN Charter may justify the violation of Article 2(4) as it allows a state to practice use-of-force when acting in self-defence, by keeping this in mind, it can be said that it is still possible that United States is defending itself against Al-Qaeda through drone attacks in Pakistan, as it is believed that they are taking refuge in FATA.17 The final case behind the legality of drone strikes is self-defence against the Pakistani state, and this can only be done if it is proven that the Pakistani state is helping the Taliban in the FATA region, and also through:
“The International Court of Justice held that a state that suffers an armed attack by irregular forces from the territory of another state shall ‘attribute the armed attack to [the] state”.
But this is only possible if there is an existing relationship between the militants and the Pakistani state. This is obviously not the case, as Pakistan has been doing an operation known as Zarb-e-Azb in one of the tribal regions of FATA since 2014, and has killed more than 3,400 militants.
The detailed analysis of legality of drone strikes makes it easy to understand why it is a problem for International Law. The post 9/11 era opened a door to a lot of new political agendas, like the introduction of the US National Security Strategy of 2002, allowing United States to act pre-emptively “against a threat that may possibly emerge in the future”. And also the justification of United States using drone attacks is based on the argument of “preemptive attack against non-state actors”, even though they have never referred to their exercise of right of self-defence as allowed by Article 51 in the Security Council. The non-state actors operating in Pakistan are matter of the Pakistani state itself, and it would be reasonable if Pakistan was a ‘failed state’ or did not have the military capability, whereas Pakistan has the sixth largest army in the world. A point that should not be ignored here is that Pakistani government is often strong-armed by United States, and they usually have to oblige to what the American administration instructs because Pakistan receives financial assistance from it, and also U.S. has a strong diplomatic influence on Pakistan too, as it can use the Security Council to put pressure on Pakistan. United States also demanded Pakistan to collaborate with it on war against terrorism, or else prepare to be bombed back to the Stone Age.
To put it in a nutshell, are these drone strikes a solution for terrorism in the region? It seems so it is not as it is being counterproductive for Pakistan. The strikes have certainly destabilized the position of Al-Qaeda; but with them becoming fragile, it created a vacuum of power which is then filled by other terrorist organizations, like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which poses an even bigger threat to the Government of Pakistan. Hence, United States “has weakened its principal enemy, Al-Qaeda, but only at the cost of earning a new set of enemies”. Another issue to address is that the drone strikes contradicts with American strategic goal of increasing the legitimacy of the Pakistani government, because the attacks decline the position of Pakistani government in international and domestic realm, causing it to lose its legitimacy and sovereignty among its people and also in the international community. It can be concluded that with drone strikes, United States is creating more terrorists in the region and damaging the position of the Pakistani government. United States and Pakistan should find a common ground and a legal way to address this issue, as they already have a consensus on war against terrorism; both states need to come up with a way which is less counter-productive and has a more concrete end result compared to drone attacks, otherwise Pakistan may have to face the results of these counterproductive acts.