“On January 18, 2023, Azerbaijan has commenced the first known inter-state arbitration under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. The historic case aims to hold Armenia accountable for its extensive destruction of Azerbaijan’s environment and biodiversity during its nearly thirty years of illegal occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s interstate legal action notes that Armenia has violated its legal obligations under the Bern Convention to maintain populations of all wild flora and fauna, especially in the area of ensuring conservation, restoration and improvements to the habitats of wild flora and fauna, among others.
In keeping with the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Azerbaijan calls on the international community to condemn Armenia’s appalling destruction during the occupation of one of the world’s most rich and bio diverse ecologies.
Within the framework of arbitration, Azerbaijan demands to order Armenia to cease all ongoing violations of the Bern Convention, and pay full reparation for its environmental destruction in the formerly occupied territories.
The arbitration process followed series of consultations initiated by the Republic of Azerbaijan in early 2022 to address its well-substantiated concerns over Armenia’s violation of its obligations under the Bern Convention in the then-occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The consultations lasted over almost a year, in the course of which, Azerbaijan has provided extensive evidence regarding destruction of environment and biodiversity in its then-occupied territories by Armenia.
The fact that the issue has now been elevated to the arbitration process after almost a year-long process itself testify the seriousness of the concerns of the Azerbaijani side on one hand, and the determination of Azerbaijan to ensure that justice is served for the damage inflicted on its environment and bio-diversity;
The concerns of Azerbaijan in this regard is neither new nor hypothetical. In fact, Azerbaijan has been drawing the attention of the international community to such wrongdoings of Armenia consistently for almost thirty years. Upon liberating its territories in 2020, Azerbaijan has uncovered shocking evidence supporting all its concerns over the significant damage to biodiversity and the natural environment due to Armenia’s conduct during its three decades of illegal occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory.
Armenia’s occupation of territories of Azerbaijan has caused severe harm to the area’s natural habitats and species, depleted natural resources, and destroyed biodiversity.
These important and often unique habitats and species in the Caucasus suffered widespread deforestation, unsustainable logging and pollution, through significant construction and mining in forest regions as well as ongoing contamination from irresponsibly managed industrial activities in Armenia that pollute trans-boundary rivers.
Azerbaijan takes its biodiversity commitments seriously. The arbitration process under the Bern Convention demonstrate this commitment, as well as the strong determination of the Republic of Azerbaijan to hold Armenia accountable for the crimes it had committed in the territories of Azerbaijan it had occupied for almost 30 years.
Illegal exploitation of natural resources and its adverse impact of environment is a serious concern for entire Azerbaijani society. Such illegal activities in the years of occupation has already led to deforestation, illegal exploitation of gold reserves, and contamination of rivers in the area. Further continuation of such activities cannot be tolerated.
A group of civil society representatives started peaceful demonstrations alongside the Lachin road directed against the continued illegal exploitation of natural resources of Azerbaijan and resulting environmental degradation, and the abuse of the Lachin road for illicit trafficking of those natural resources to Armenia.
This is an exercise by a group of civil society representatives to peaceful assembly. We have been clear that these protests were not orchestrated by the Government of Azerbaijan. However, the Government of Azerbaijan does support their call to end illegal mining on Azerbaijan’s territory and the misuse of Lachin road for illegal activities.
By exercising their right to peaceful assembly, the civil society activists aim at preventing further damage on environment and biodiversity of Azerbaijan. Their legitimate demands must be heard and addressed.”