Endless games of ICRC: Time comes for organization to leave Azerbaijan -ANALYTICS

Endless games of ICRC: Time comes for organization to leave Azerbaijan -ANALYTICS
# 09 April 2024 15:15 (UTC +04:00)

The activity of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Azerbaijan has always been under suspicion.

It is known that the organization started to operate in Azerbaijan in the 1990s of the last century under the name of aiding refugees and internally displaced persons and finding missing persons. Although the ICRC has done certain things in this direction, it cannot be said that it has fully fulfilled its mission.

It is a well-known fact that the ICRC, especially during the First Garabagh War, often demonstrates an indifferent attitude towards the fate of the missing Azerbaijanis captured by the Armenian military units.

During the Garabagh war, the organization did not implement necessary work in the direction of finding and returning Azerbaijanis who were captured and lost as a result of Armenian aggression.

As a result, today the fate of up to 4 thousand Azerbaijani prisoners of war and missing persons hasn’t been clarified. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) did not demand clarity on the fate of these individuals from Armenia during these years, didn't condemn this step of Armenia, and didn't exert pressure on it. ICRC has not raised any issues at the international level regarding Armenia's responsibility for the fate of the 4,000 people, and the issue of accountability of occupying Yerevan was not brought to the agenda. As if these were not enough ICRC, even though was aware of the fact that many Azerbaijanis were kept captive in prison camps in Armenia, didn’t fulfill its duties and tried to exclude itself from the process under various pretexts. There are even facts that confirm that ICRC was not interested in the fate of some of the captive and hostage Azerbaijanis later.

Based on the information provided to the State Commission regarding captured, missing, and hostage Azerbaijani citizens by ICRC in 1998 and 2001, during the First Garabagh War, 54 Azerbaijani citizens were detained by the employees of this institution in Armenia and the occupied territories of Garabagh, they were officially registered. Later, the bodies of 17 out of 54 individuals were returned, no general information was provided about the subsequent claims of 4 individuals, and although it was reported that 33 individuals died at the detention sites, their bodies were not returned. While the legal responsibility for the violation of international humanitarian law rests with Armenia, the responsibility and guilt of ICRC in this matter are not negligible. Did ICRC raise the issue of Armenia's responsibility for the killing of 17 Azerbaijani captives and the fact that the fate of 37 individuals remains unknown? Did it condemn Yerevan? Of course, not...

In the Second Garabagh War, however, we witnessed a completely different stance from ICRC towards Armenia. During the war and in its aftermath, ICRC showed particular enthusiasm and actively engaged in the process of resolving Armenian issues, with over 1700 Armenian soldiers' bodies being returned to Armenia.

The stance adopted by the institution after the war was generally absurd and incomprehensible. ICRC, by showing disrespect for international law and Azerbaijani laws, began operating independently in Khankandi city without the permission of Baku. Thus, ICRC effectively operated two centers on Azerbaijani territory. The Khankandi office had its budget, conducted independent staff selection, and operated more in an integrated form with Armenia.

Despite objections from Baku and repeated appeals to ICRC, demanding a change in the status of the Khankandi office, all appeals remained unsuccessful.

Instead, ICRC enthusiastically served the remaining separatist remnants in Garabagh, providing them with assistance and support. When eco-activists organized protests on the Lachin road, the institution's Khankhndi office carried out illegal transports, effectively engaging in smuggling activities.

Employees of the State Border Service (SBS) repeatedly discovered attempts to smuggle various types of contraband through vehicles belonging to ICRC at the "Lachin" checkpoint on the border with Armenia. The SBS's official records noted that border guards uncovered hundreds of mobile phones, mobile phone parts, food blocks for mobile phones, cigarettes, and hidden gasoline reserves concealed among unreported cargo loads in ICRC vehicles at various times.

Despite not officially warning ICRC through formal channels, the unlawful actions were repeated, and necessary steps to eliminate them were not taken.

The use of vehicles belonging to ICRC, intended for medical evacuation, for smuggling constitutes a flagrant violation of Azerbaijani laws and is indicative of a disregard for the humanitarian principles that ICRC's staff are supposed to uphold.

At that time, two employees of ICRC were declared "persona non grata" and expelled from Azerbaijan. However, this action did not deter ICRC from its unjust stance against Azerbaijan. Despite Azerbaijan opening the road to Aghdam after the 44-day war and facilitating the transportation of aid through it, the institution insisted on aid being transported only via the Lachin road. This reaffirmed the organization's intention to politicize the humanitarian process and pursue activities that align with certain interests.

Just a few days ago, it was decided to suspend the operation of ICRC's Khankandi office. Interestingly, this information was not disseminated by the institution's Baku office but by its Yerevan office. Only after inquiries from the media did ICRC's Baku office confirm the information, stating that the institution's activities in the Garabagh region would be carried out from its Barda office, and efforts to support those in need would continue.

Thus, the organization still maintains two offices in Azerbaijan. However, now that the war is over, there is no longer any need for ICRC's activities on Azerbaijani territory.

Therefore, it would have been more appropriate for ICRC to consolidate its operations and leave Azerbaijan altogether.