I have been closely following the rapidly-changing situation in and around the Karabakh region. Following Azerbaijan’s recent military action and its subsequent control over the region, as of 1 October 2023, 100,483 Karabakh Armenians, including families, older people and other vulnerable groups, have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighbouring Armenia. As I have stressed on several occasions, this latest ordeal comes on top of the humanitarian and human rights consequences of armed hostilities that they have suffered since 2020, aggravated in the past nine months by the prolonged disruption in movement along the Lachin corridor and acute shortages of essential goods, services and energy supplies.
In this respect, I welcome the efforts made by the authorities of Armenia to protect and assist all those in need in the immediate term, with the support of UNHCR, other UN agencies and civil society. However, additional assistance is required to make sure that the needs of all persons are promptly identified and adequately addressed. I therefore call on Council of Europe member states to demonstrate their solidarity and provide all necessary support as a matter of urgency.
The authorities of Azerbaijan have initiated a number of political, administrative and economic measures aimed at reintegrating the Karabakh region and people living there. In this respect, I urge the government of Azerbaijan to guarantee the safety and the respect of the human rights of the ethnic Armenians who remain in the Karabakh region, including their rights to equal treatment and to be protected from violence, intimidation and hatred. Vulnerable groups, such as wounded people or people in need of healthcare, elderly people, women and children, should be especially protected. The authorities should also ensure that the rights of those who have left are fully respected, including the right to return to their homes in safety and dignity.
It is crucial to ensure free and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance providers and international human rights missions to all areas and people affected by the current circumstances. In this regard, I take note of the recently deployed UN mission to the Karabakh region. As Commissioner for Human Rights, I will continue to seek the engagement of all relevant interlocutors from Armenia and Azerbaijan, in accordance with my mandate, to be able to assist in overcoming the existing human rights challenges. In this context - and in co-operation with the Armenian authorities - I will soon travel to Armenia.