Azerbaijan and Turkey Have Violated International Law

Destruction in a village in Hadrut/Martuni (Photo: Areg Balayan and Karapet Sahakyan)

One source of international law that is applicable to all countries is Customary International Law. Customary International Law evolves from the practice of States, and over a period of time, those practices become binding international laws that all nations must abide by. The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal that took place in 1945 and 1946 solidified the idea that “aggression” is an international crime, and thus assuring that aggression, also known as crimes against peace, is international law due to Customary International Law. As it is Customary International Law, all nations must abide by it, with or without any subsequent treaties. The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal describes aggression as: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” The Nuremberg Trials further defined aggression as the following:

“(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”

Treaties are another source of international law, which many times are just codifying Customary International Law. Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations clearly states that “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The Charter of the United Nations is a binding treaty on all states who have ratified it and agree to be bound by it. Azerbaijan ratified and became bound to the Charter of the United Nations on March 2, 1992, and Turkey ratified and became bound to the Charter of the United Nations on October 24, 1945. Therefore, both countries must comply with all Articles, including Article 2.

Azerbaijan and Turkey have both violated Customary International Law, as well as the Charter of the United Nations by “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.” The information below exemplifies some of Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s violations of this international law.

Planning and Preparing

  • Over the past month, flights of Turkish cargo warplanes to Azerbaijan reached an unprecedented level.
  • Last week, international media was reporting that Turkey paid and sent Syrian militants to go and fight alongside Azerbaijan.
  • Civilian vehicles, specifically pickups, were confiscated by Azerbaijani police to be used for military purposes.
  • On September 24, 2020 there were reports of a sudden mobilization of Azerbaijani military reservists.
  • On September 25, 2020 two days before the attack, Azerbaijan refused the OSCE Minsk Group’s request to conduct monitoring missions on the frontlines.
  • On the eve of the attack, Azerbaijan prohibited Azeris from publishing any pictures or videos of military objects, thus warning its population about the upcoming military operations.
  • Turkish media agencies were in place and covering the attacks less than one hour after the Azerbaijani attacks began, indicating they were aware of the attacks in advance, therefore were prepared to report on them.

Initiation or Waging of War of Aggression

  • On September 27, 2020 at 7:10 a.m. Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked attack by shelling Stepanakert, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, has a civilian population of over 55,000.
  • On September 29, 2020 Azerbaijan attacked a civilian bus in Vardenis, Armenia, which is inside the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Armenia.
  • On September 29, 2020 an Armenian Su-25 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 within the airspace of Armenia’s internationally recognized borders.
  • As of September 30, 2020, at least seven civilians have been killed by Azerbaijani shelling, UAV strikes and bombardment.
  • Since the start of the conflict, Azerbaijan has been shelling and conducting UAV strikes, among other things, throughout Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Azeri UAVs are even inching closer to Yerevan; four were shot down in the region of Kotayk just before midnight on Thursday.  

Initiation or Waging of a War in Violation of International Treaties, Agreements, or Assurances

  • The Bishkek Protocol was an agreement signed on May 5, 1994 between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, and Russia’s representative to the OSCE Minsk Group. This was a ceasefire agreement, and Azerbaijan initiated and waged war in violation of this ceasefire agreement, thus guilty of the international crime of aggression.

Who can hold Azerbaijan and Turkey responsible for violating these international laws? The International Court of Justice, an organ of the United Nations, enumerated four obligation erga omnes, one of the four being waging war of aggression. Obligation erga omnes, a category of certain Customary International Law, gives authority to any nation to seek redress for a violation. Any nation. In addition to Azerbaijan and Turkey’s violation of Customary International Law, they are also in violation of Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, thus in violation of the treaty. The 193 members of the Charter of the United Nations have all agreed to be bound by the treaty.

Raffi Tapanian

Raffi Tapanian

Raffi Tapanian is a licensed attorney in the State of California. He graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California and passed the California Bar Exam in 2022. Raffi was the treasurer for the Armenian Law Students Association at Loyola. In 2019, Raffi graduated from UCLA with a major in History, while minoring in Armenian Studies.


  1. So how are we (Armenia) going to be able to defend ourselves? Are our international partners going to come to our support and defense? Or are we sitting ducks? We cannot be.

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