What is “Remedial Secession” and why is it applicable to Nagorno-Karabakh?

(Photo: Government of Armenia, October 6, 2020)

The principle of “Remedial Secession” is the modern manifestation of the principle of self-determination of a people, which entitles people who are indigenous to a certain territory to secede from any state when there is a proven record of discrimination, widespread human rights violations or threat of ethnic cleansing (genocide). The notion is coming from the United Nations (UN) principle called “Responsibility to Protect,” which entails protection of people by states and the international community from the aforementioned threats. To date, the concept was exercised in the framework of bilateral relations, meaning individual countries recognized the independence of the seceding states, which later on were gradually accepted by other international bodies. The examples of people who exercised their right of self-determination via Remedial Secession include Kosovo in 2008, East Timor in 1999 and South Sudan in 2011.

The Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), having declared its independence from the Soviet Union and Azerbaijani SSR back in 1991 is a de-facto country that conducted several rounds of democratic elections and has established its self-government bodies. This unrecognized state has all the rights to be recognized based on the principle of “Remedial Secession.”

The following will provide brief insight into reasons why the physical security of the people of Artsakh is under immediate threat and why remedial secession applies to this situation.

Ethnic cleansing

  • The people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) have already been exposed to ethnic cleansing back in 1920 when the Azeri armed forces carried out mass killings (20,000 casualties) and deportation of the Armenian population of Artsakh, especially in Shushi where the Armenian half of the city was burnt down. 
  • Nakhichevan (currently an autonomous republic inside Azerbaijan) being historically Armenian land has always been vastly populated by Armenians. Back in 1917, more than 40-percent of the population of this region was indigenous Armenians[1], however, the results of the 1979 census show that due to policies of oppression and ethnic cleansing only 1.4 percent of the population was Armenian. At the moment there are practically no Armenians living there.
  • When the people of Artsakh voiced their will of reuniting with Soviet Armenia back in 1988, a round of pogroms started targeting Armenians all over Azerbaijan. It started in Sumgait in February 1988[2] and continued in Kirovabad in November of the same year, and in Baku in January 1990. As a result, more than 300 Armenians were tortured, raped and brutally killed and more than 400,000 Armenians had to flee from Azerbaijan leaving all of their belongings. 
  • From April to August 1991, the Special Forces of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry, with the support of the troops of the Interior Ministry of the USSR and the Fourth Soviet Army launched the large-scale “Koltso” (Ring) operation on the deportation of the Armenian population of Artsakh. At first, Azerbaijani forces blocked the Armenian villages from the outside world, cut the electricity and flow of basic supplies. Later the military forces forced more than 17-thousand Armenians to flee their villages in North Artsakh[3] and more than 50 civilians were brutally killed, mutilated and burned alive, the most horrific incidents taking place during the massacre in the village of Maragha.


  • When forced out from under the Azerbaijani SSR rule as an autonomous oblast (region), Armenians faced harsh discrimination in all aspects of life. Per capita investment in Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was more than several times less than the average in Azerbaijan and the region was turned into a supplier of raw materials with an extremely underdeveloped infrastructure. 
  • Out of the numerous Armenian churches on the territory of Artsakh (118 in number), none was functioning, whereas mosques operated in order to meet the spiritual needs of the Azerbaijani population. 
  • Armenian, as a language, had practically been ousted from official use, a fact that was reflected even in the Azerbaijan SSR law “On NKAO” where there was not a single mention of the word “Armenian.” 
  • The number of Armenian schools was reduced on a yearly basis and there were practically no textbooks in Armenian since it was forbidden to use textbooks published in Armenia.

Anti-Armenian propaganda and threats

  • In 2004 Azerbaijan’s defense minister said, “Within the next 25 years there will be no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus. These people have no right to live in this region.” 
  • In 2005 the mayor of Baku during a meeting with the municipal delegation of Bavaria said, “Our goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You Nazis already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, right? You should be able to understand us.” 
  • In 2006, Azeri army major Ramil Safarov beheaded an Armenian soldier in his sleep during a NATO conference in Budapest. During his trial Safarov said, “If there were more Armenians there I would have killed all of them. It is a pity this was the first occasion and I hadn’t managed to get better prepared for this… My calling is to kill all Armenians.” Afterwards he was extradited, pardoned and was proclaimed as the “Person of the Year” in Azerbaijan. 
  • In 2006, Azerbaijan’s minister of internal affairs said, “…the more Azerbaijanis kill Armenians the fewer there will be of them.”[4]
  • In 2015, Ilham Aliyev tweeted, “Armenia is not even a colony, it’s not even worthy of being a servant.” 
  • In October 2020, Ilham Aliyev said, “This is the end. We showed them who we are. We are chasing Armenians like dogs.”

Destruction of cultural heritage (cultural genocide)

  • There used to be more than 50 Armenian churches and monasteries in today’s territory of Azerbaijan; all of them have been destroyed. Only three Armenian churches still stand, all without crosses and the buildings are being used for other purposes. 
  • The biggest Armenian medieval cemetery consisting of more than 10-thousand precious funerary monuments and khachkars situated in Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan was brutally destroyed in 2002 by Azerbaijani militants.

War crimes

  • The recent aggression of Azerbaijan, in full support from Turkey, started and continues with indiscriminate shelling on civilian settlements and infrastructure, including the capital of Stepanakert. More than 90-thousand people have been displaced from their homes and become refugees. At the moment there are more than 40 civilian casualties and 120 wounded and more than 10-thousand infrastructures and facilities are destroyed all over Artsakh. 
  • Azerbaijan is using forbidden cluster munitions in heavily populated areas—a grave violation of international and humanitarian law. This has been recorded by international organizations and independent media.
  • Turkey, together with Azerbaijan is deploying Islamic jihadists from Syria to fight and slaughter civilians in Artsakh, fueling international terrorism and putting under risk the security of the whole region. This was confirmed by numerous independent international media and experts, as well as the President of France and US and Russian intelligence services.
  • Azerbaijani forces intentionally shell religious, educational and cultural sites, including the 19th century Holy Savior Cathedral and the Cultural House in Shushi, as well as numerous schools and kindergartens. 
  • In 2016, during the Azerbaijani attack on Artsakh’s defense forces, the Azeri diversion unit entered the village of Talish, where they mutilated two elderly people and cut their ears. 
  • During another diversion activity in Hadrut (the ongoing war in 2020), Azerbaijani forces killed an unarmed elderly woman and her disabled son who were not able to evacuate right in their house. 
  • There are a number of confirmed videos and other evidence circulating on social media showcasing how Azerbaijani soldiers are dehumanizing and killing Armenian prisoners of war. There is also much proof in the form of pictures showcasing Azerbaijani soldiers holding mutilated heads of Armenian soldiers.

Ultimately, it is obvious that the government and the population of Azerbaijan want the territories of Artsakh without its people. Back in July, there were mass rallies in the capital of Azerbaijan Baku where people were chanting “death to Armenians” and other pro-war slogans and demanding military activities against Armenians of Artsakh. There are numerous online threads in Azerbaijani social media where people are glorifying the current war, the Armenian Genocide and even discussing whether they should kill Armenian children.

All of this comes as solid and undeniable proof that the only resolution for the current conflict and the only way of safeguarding the physical security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh is the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh and the right of self-determination of its people via the principle of Remedial Secession.


[1] «Кавказский календарь на 1917 г.», с. 214-221
[2] De Waal, Thomas (2010). The Caucasus: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0195399776.
[3] Human Rights Watch. Bloodshed in the Caucasus. Escalation of the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. 1992 p. 9
[4] Day.az: “Ramil Safarov Named a Person of the Year”



Davit Manukyan

Davit Manukyan is a graduate of American University of Armenia and the President of the European Youth Parliament in Armenia. He has been studying Artsakh and other frozen conflicts in the region for years.


  1. Thank you for this concise yet very informative article that can be very useful tool for information also for non Armenian public.

  2. The government of Armenia should present these facts at an emergency session of the UN and demand urgent and immediate action to recognise and protect the independance of Artsakh.

  3. Unfortunately, the concept of redmedial sucession isn’t enshrined in any international law, and even the general universal statement in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 1 doesn’t allow it to overcome the principle of ‘territorial integrity’.

    Equally unfortunate is the tendency for Armenians to concentrate on the very real genocidal threat to indigenous Armenians of Artsakh (not NK, as this is a colonial Persian-Turk term). This has been a completely unsuccessful strategy as the world has proven that it largely doesn’t care because it thinks Armenians are somehow also Russians. A better strategy would be to concentrate on the false claim by Azerbaijan to Artsakh as part of its ‘territorial integority, by reminding the world that Azerbaijan wasn’t an internationally recognised spovereign nation until 26 December 1991.

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