Khojaly tragedy is one of the most horrible crimes against humanity in the twentieth century. Khojaly, which has a population of 7000, is located 10 km south-east of Khankendi, in the Garabagh mountain range and on the Aghdam-Shusha, Askeran-Khankendi highways. The only airport in Karabakh is in Khojaly. Khojaly is a place where the population is historically inhabited, and ancient historical monuments still remain. There are monuments of Khojaly-Gedebey culture dating from the XIV-VII centuries. Here are burial monuments of the last bronze and early Iron Age – stone boxes, mounds and necropolis. Also here are the architectural monuments – the circular graveyard (1356-1357) and the mausoleum (XIV century). During archaeological excavations various types of stones, bronze, bone decorations, household items from clay, etc. was found. The population was mainly engaged in viticulture, animal husbandry, beekeeping and agriculture. There was a knitting factory in the city, two secondary schools and two incomplete secondary schools.
Some 54 refugee-turk family refugees from Uzbekistan, as well as some of the Azerbaijanis expelled from Armenia and Khankendi were living in the city in connection with recent events. Later, the Armenian side admitted that the first major task of the Armenian armed forces was the destruction of the Khojaly Plateau, dismantling the Askeran-Khankendi road passing through that point, capturing the airport controlled by the Azerbaijanis. Khojaly was blockaded in October 1991. Since October 30, all roads leading to the city were closed, the only helicopter was left. The last helicopter in Khojaly was on January 28, 1992. A civilian helicopter was shot down in the Shusha region, and the air communication with the city was cut off by the death of 40 people in the helicopter. No electricity was provided to the city on January 2. The Khojaly were living and defending themselves only because of their heroism and courage of city defenders. The city’s protection was mainly composed of local self-defense brigades, local militia forces and militants armed with guns and automatic rifles.From the second half of February, Khojaly was sacked by Armenian armed forces and was exposed to gunfire from heavy guns.
Pay attention to the words “Destroy the Khojaly Plateau”. This statement now makes it clear why the bloody massacre committed by the Armenians, the mass destruction of children, women and elderly people.
Chronicle of the tragedy
From the second half of February, Khojaly was sacked by Armenian armed forces and was exposed to gunfire from heavy guns every day. Preparation for the attack on Khojaly began on February 25, with the arrival of the 366th regiment on the battlefield in the evening. The attack took place after a two-hour fire from the cannons, tanks and “Alazan” zenit balls. Khojaly was attacked in three directions, and the population had to flee to Askaran. It soon became apparent that this was a crafty plot. Near the village of Nakhchivanakan, the population was cut by the Armenian armed forces and they were shot dead. Most of the weakened and depressed people onthe snowy slopes and forests were destroyed by special brutality by the Armenian armed forces in the Askeran-Nakhchivanakan plain. These events coincided with the days of the visit to the region by the mediation mission of the Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali Akbar Vilayati. He met with the leaders of Azerbaijan on February 25 and plans to visit Karabakh on February 27 and then to Armenia. In this connection, three days of the ceasefire was declared from February 27 to March 1 with the consent of the parties. The Armenians ignored him and broke their promises. The same situation took place on February 12, when the mission of the OSCE Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe came to Karabakh to study the situation and analyze the conflict. The mission then had to travel to Yerevan and Baku. On February 12, Armenian armed forces seized and burned Malibayli and Gushchular villages of Shusha, 50 people were killed, wounded and taken captive in Malibayli. In those days, the Azerbaijani forces did not reach Khojaly residents, and even the bodies were not able to be withdrawn. At that time, Armenians were searching for people hiding in the woods with special helicopters, white cloth, and those who captured subjected to torture. On February 28, a group of local journalists, including two helicopters, reached the place where the Azerbaijanis were killed. The scene they saw was horrified by everyone – the plain was full of corpses. Despite the protection of the second helicopter, it was possible to take only four bodies under the strong fire of the Armenians. On March 1, there was an even more horrifying incident at the scene with the participation of local and foreign journalists. Before the attack, on February 25, Armenians started firing from city balls and heavy armored vehicles in the evening. As a result, fires occurred in the city, and on February 26 at 5 am the city was full of flames. In such a situation, about 2500 people, who remained in the Armenian-populated city, had to leave the city in the hope of reaching the center of the Aghdam region, which was inhabited by nearby Azerbaijanis. But this intention did not happen. The Armenian Armed Forces and the militants of the crushing city, who had destroyed the city, took the civilian population. As a result of this massacre, 613 people were killed, including 63 children; women 106 persons; old people were 70. 8 families have been completely destroyed. 25 children lost both parents. 130 children lost one parent, 487 injured, of whom children were 76. 1275 were captured. 150 people have been missing. The property of the state and the population is estimated at 5 billion rubles worth of damage. These figures refer to the most terrible, bloody tragedy of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which was initiated in 1988 with the support of the Armenian SSR and the negligence of the USSR leadership on the realization of the claim that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast is a part of Azerbaijan SSR.
The role of the 366th regiment in the Khojaly genocide is especially important.Armenian armed gangs and members of the 366th motorized rifle squad are the main criminals of vandalism committed in Khojaly. This humiliation repeatedly involved Shusha and Khojaly in firing Azerbaijani villages.The negligence of the military squad has reached such a point that they were unable to ensure the release of the detainee as they met with the resistance of the population. As a result of the irresponsibility of the commander’s command of the crime and the irresponsibility of others, part of the military equipment, including armored vehicles, was handed over to the Armenians. Thus, in the future, it was promoted to commit crimes against Azerbaijan and to continue the separatist movements. This is also a proof of direct participation in the Khojaly genocide! The actions of Armenians and their assistants who took part in the Khojaly genocide are the brutal violations of human rights, international legal acts – the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the ignorance of the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Military Conflicts.Almost all Khojaly refugees claimed that the 366th regiment was involved in the attack on the city, and some of them even entered the city.
When the city was captured by Armenian armed forces there were 300 civilians, including 86 mausoleum-folk. According to the information received on both sides, on March 3, 1992, the Azerbaijani side was handed over to Khojaly resident, who was captured in over 700 cities and on Agdam road. Most of them were women and children.
The aspects of Khojaly genocide as an international crime
International offense is a violation of international law, defined in the norms of international law, which violates the rights and legitimate interests of individual states, internationally recognized human rights, and their legal content. In international law, the category of “international crime” and “crime of international character” are distinguished. The crime of genocide concerns the category of international crimes. The main components of those crimes are the provisions of the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg and Tokyo) established after the Second World War. Subsequently, those criminal offenses have been reinforced again by improving the regulations of international criminal tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and by the International Criminal Court’s Statute. In the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter, international crimes are divided into three groups: – crimes against peace; – war crimes; – crimes against humanity. After the Second World War, the genocide of the international community distinguished itself as an independent international crime. The term “genocide” has not been used in the Charter and Rule of the Nuremberg Tribunal. According to the classification of the Nuremberg Tribunal, genocide is closer to crimes against humanity. However, the genocide differs from the anti-humane crimes by the scale of the repression against the specific population group and the precise purpose. In a sense, genocide is similar to war crimes. Thus, committing the same offense may overlap with military operations. But genocide differs according to its war crimes goals, and genocide can also be eroded in a peaceful era. Just because of these traits, the genocide of the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals, in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, was separated from war crimes and crimes against humanity. The legal content of the genocide is the following acts committed to full or partial extermination of any national, ethnic, racial or religious group: – the killing of such members of the group; – severe bodily injury or mental disruption to such group members; – Creation of living conditions for deliberate complete or partial physical destruction of any group; – taking measures aimed at preventing birth in such a group; – The kidnapping of children from a group of people and giving them to someone else. A specific intention for the murder of a genocide is a necessary element. This distinguishes genocide from a similar international crime similar to the objective one. Every one of the acts constituting the genocide is dictated by conscious, knowingly and in accord with his character. These acts cannot be committed in a casual or accidental manner. At the same time, the intentions to commit those acts and the general perception of their possible consequences are not sufficient to justify the act of genocide. Here it is necessary to reveal the specific intent of the offender or its specific intentions regarding the negative consequences of the act. The fact that the Azerbaijani civilians, who want to escape from the pre-populated ambushes from the Armenian armed forces prove the genocide intentions. It is also evident that the offense against the Azerbaijani national group. When analyzing the crime of genocide, it clarifies the existence of three main elements: the existence of a recognized national, ethnic, racial or religious group; – intention to destroy such group completely or partially; – committing any of the genocidal acts associated with the recognized group.
Hence, the act of genocide must be directed against a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Such actions directed against another group, such as the political or social group, can not be regarded as genocide. The concept of genocide requires a specific intention for the general outcome of the forbidden act. Intentionality, as a sign of genocide murders, combines several aspects: – intention should consist of the destruction of the group rather than one or more of those belonging to one or another particular group. Individual identity, not individual identity, is a decisive criterion for identifying genocide victims; – intentions should be the destruction of the group as a separate group, in itself, as a separate entity different from the others. The genocide refuses to recognize the existence of a whole human group. There is no need for a final outcome of the destruction of a certain group to assume responsibility for the genocide crime. For this purpose, it is sufficient to commit any of the acts that constitute the object of the offense with the intention of destroying a particular group as a whole or in part. The concept of destruction, which is an objective aspect of genocide, is a physical destruction of the group by physical or biological means. This is not the case with the destruction of the group’s national, religious, linguistic, cultural or other peculiarities. The objective aspect of the genocide crime is not the “cultural genocide”. In its decision on the Barcelona Traction Case, the International Court of Justice has named all omnivores of committing genocide allegations and commitments. The International Court has recognized the principles underlying the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as a part of international customary law, which is compulsory for all States. It is imperative that the genocide be justified as a crime, and that the perpetrators should receive a decent punishment as required by international law.
International legal consequences of Khojaly genocide
International law has defined the following as a result of the genocide:1. The criminal prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of genocide crimes is inevitable. International law recognizes the concept of genocide as well as determines the responsibility of the perpetrators. In accordance with Article 5 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, states parties must take effective measures to punish those charged with genocide crimes. According to Article 6 of the Convention, those persons should be judged by the international court if they are not judged in the competent courts on the territory of the State. 2. Not only the executioners of the crime of genocide, but also the assassination of genocide, direct and indirect assaults on genocide, attempted genocide and genocide are also a criminal offense. 3. The principle of universal jurisdiction should be applied to the perpetrators of genocide. The Milli Majlis (Parliament) of Azerbaijan proclaimed February 26 as “Khojaly genocide day”. Every year on February 26, at 17.00, the people of Azerbaijan commemorate victims of the Khojaly genocide. Residents of Khojaly, who are abandoned in their native homes and dispersed in 48 regions of Azerbaijan, live in the hope of a fair settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, overcoming Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan and restoring the country’s territorial integrity. They appeal to the peoples of the world, states, international organizations to defend the truth and to condemn the facts of terrorism and ethnic cleansing in Khojaly. The guilty, organizers and executors of the Khojaly genocide must reach their worthy penalties. Crime can not be impunity. Unfortunately, there were historical pages in the twentieth century, when genocide and ethnic cleansing took place. Khojaly tragedy is among the most terrible of them. Anyone presently involved in these cases is still responsible for their conscience, but the time will come and they will have to answer the court of history. History does not forget anything.
Dr. Murteza Hasanoğlu
The Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan