Ethnic Cleansing: Does International Law Still Matter?

 Human Rights Violations and Aggression subject of Bishop Grigoris Balakian Annual Lecture

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Diocesan Newsletter. London, 20 March 2024— Critical issues of ethnic cleansing and international law was the subject of the inaugural Bishop Grigoris Balakian Annual Lecture, a new initiative of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Two distinguished speakers delivered compelling lectures on the topic of “Ethnic Cleansing: Does International Law Still Matter?” at St. Yeghiche Armenian Church in London on March 19th.

Lord Alton of Liverpool of the House of Lords and Dr Arman Tatoyan, director of the Tatoyan Foundation and former Ombudsman of Armenia, addressed some of the critical legal and political questions regarding the effectiveness of internal law, with a focus on the case of the Armenians displaced from Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) as a result of Azerbaijan’s aggressive military attacks.

In setting the larger context of the annual lecture, Dr Hratch Tchilingirian, in his opening remarks as chair of the proceedings, said: “We are here tonight because “‘Never Again’ is again, and again, and again…  We are gathered because crimes against humanity and human rights abuses are being committed before our very eyes from the Middle East to the Caucasus, to Eastern Europe, Asia, Central America and many parts of the world.”

In his powerful address, Lord Alton spoke about the Armenian Genocide during WWI as the larger historical context and underscored the gravity of recent events in Artsakh.  He emphasised the international community’s responsibility in view of Azerbaijan’s “unprovoked large-scale military offensive against Artsakh” in September 2023. He underlined, citing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s resolution in October 2023, that “the practice of ethnic cleansing may give rise to individual criminal responsibility under international law”.

Lord Alton addressed the international community’s amnesia regarding instances of genocide in recent history, which has in turn allowed new despots and dictators to act while the world was distracted. As a leading human rights advocate and defender, Lord Alton made it clear that there can be no ambiguity or indifference: those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Dr Tatoyan, in his poignant and comprehensive presentation, highlighted the lethal impact of Azerbaijan’s state-produced and promoted racism and Armenophobia targeting Armenians and Armenia.  He focused on the current dangerous and dire situation created by hostile Azerbaijani military presence within view of a number of Armenian border towns. The population in these areas are faced with deprivation of normalcy and safety and the erosion of livelihoods. The situation remains dire and explosive due to continued Azerbaijan’s encroachments and military encampments in the border areas.  

Dr Tatoyan’s fact-finding mission to the border areas aims to bring to light the crimes and lethal policies of Azerbaijan towards the Armenians. Supported by irrefutable facts, they identify the responsible parties and breach of international law and conventions. The defence of the internationally guaranteed rights of the population is at the core of the work that Dr Tatoyan and his team carry out. He said the Armenians who were ethnically cleansed as a result of Azerbaijani armed attacks on Artsakh in September 2023 must return to Artsakh in a dignified, safe, and secure manner.

Opening remarks were delivered by the host Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, Primate of the Armenian Church and His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas Lioulias, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and President of the Conference of the European Churches. Both church leaders stressed the importance of acknowledging past atrocities to prevent repeating them in the future. Lawyer, advocate and author Dr Ewelina U. Ochab moderated the discussions.

The Bishop Grigoris Balakian Annual Lecture serves as an important platform for raising awareness and advocating for the rights and dignity of those impacted by ethnic cleansing in contemporary times. It honours the legacy of Bishop Grigoris (1875-1934), an eyewitness to the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Primate of the Armenian Church in the UK in 1922 and a respected leader, especially in the aftermath of WWI.

For more information on future events, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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