Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Call it by proper name

- LUIS MORENO OCAMPO Luis Moreno Ocampo was the first chief prosecutor of the Internatio­nal Criminal Court.

In 2021, President Biden recognized the 1915 removal of Armenians from their lands in Anatolia, in today’s Turkey, as genocide. The United States had been silent on the issue for more than a century, with grievous consequenc­es.

Today, Armenians need global leaders, including Biden, to stop a new genocide—one that started this past winter and is now evolving into a more brutal phase.

Last Tuesday, after a months-long blockade and military buildup along the border of the Armenian-majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, that country’s military launched an attack. Within a day, Azerbaijan­i forces quickly overwhelme­d local defenses, killing more than 200 people, including civilians. In short order, a shaky cease-fire was announced.

In return for stopping the bombing, Azerbaijan demanded the surrender of Nagorno-Karabakh’s top leaders and the disarmamen­t of all the armed forces of the Karabakh authoritie­s.

As Azerbaijan’s victory became more apparent, scores of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian civilians gathered around the airport in Stepanaker­t (the enclave’s biggest city) looking to flee their ancestral lands.

They have every right to fear the next steps Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev might take. Since December 2022, Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin Corridor, the only connection between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. On Feb. 22, the Internatio­nal Court of Justice, after hearing arguments from both sides, ruled that the blockade produced a “real and imminent risk” to the “health and life” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.

Rather than comply with the court’s binding order to end the blockade, Azerbaijan security forces doubled down in June, sealing off the enclave entirely, preventing the transfer of food, medical supplies and other essentials.

In internatio­nal law, the Genocide Convention of 1948 makes it clear that one way to commit the crime is by “deliberate­ly inflicting on [a] group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destructio­n in whole or in part” (Article II c). By blocking the Lachin Corridor, Aliyev turned Nagorno-Karabakh into a vast concentrat­ion camp for 120,000 Armenians.

What happens next? Because Nagorno-Karabakh authoritie­s surrendere­d, the internatio­nal community has urged Aliyev to guarantee the full rights of his Armenian citizens in the enclave. Aliyev’s government has said it is not committing ethnic cleansing and assured the world that “reintegrat­ion” will bring prosperity to the region.

But this rhetoric rings hollow given what has already been done. And Azerbaijan’s ambitions extend beyond Nagorno-Karabakh.

The world must call the crime by its proper name. Resistance to using the term “genocide” has been a long-standing problem in internatio­nal affairs.

Biden did the right thing in 2021. Today, he needs to help prevent history from repeating itself.

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