Ads and protests at climate change conference aimed at release of Armenian political prisoners

Artsakh Union publishes ads highlighting the hypocrisy of Azerbaijan’s “COP of Peace” amidst genocide against Armenians as government and civil society experts gather in Bonn, Germany, to set the COP agenda

BONN, Germany—The Artsakh Union has launched an advertising campaign challenging COP29 host Azerbaijan to fulfill its alleged vision of a “COP of Peace” by releasing its political prisoners. The campaign comes amid the opening week of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, where experts set the agenda for the prestigious COP meetings that will bring together world leaders in Baku later this year.

Advertisement launched by the Artsakh Union during the Bonn Climate Change Conference

The challenging advertisements come after Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, told media in May that the country was eager to make “COP29 a COP of peace.” That claim has been widely rebuked, with experts pointing to the government’s genocidal actions taken against ethnic Armenians and long-standing record of human rights violations. 

“The Aliyev regime of Azerbaijan continues to detain Armenian political prisoners and hostages, destroy our cultural heritage and property under their occupation, systematically promote anti-Armenian ethnic hatred and block the return of the forcibly displaced Artsakh people to their homes. These actions, along with other international and domestic crimes, exemplify their ongoing genocidal policy against the Artsakh people,” said Artak Beglaryan, president of the Artsakh Union and former state minister of Artsakh. “Our efforts aim to raise international awareness about the Aliyev regime’s continuous violations and the urgent need to release our illegally detained leaders and compatriots. The international community must not allow the Aliyev regime to mislead and distract them with COP 29 and evade accountability for their perpetrated genocide and continuous violations.” 

The Artsakh Union is a grassroots organization created by citizens of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized state that was invaded by Azerbaijan in September 2023, causing the entire population of 120,000 indigenous Armenians to flee. Amid the aggression, Azerbaijani officials also arrested eight Armenian political leaders of Artsakh, a group that remains illegally detained and hostage in Baku and awaiting news on their trial date. The political prisoners include international philanthropist and humanitarian Ruben Vardanyan, who recently ended a 21-day hunger strike to protest their illegal detainment, increasingly worsening imprisonment conditions and limited access to due process in an opaque legal system.

Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ first Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, reviewed these actions, solemnly confirming that “genocide has been committed against ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the danger of more suffering of this kind is by no means over. The international community still bears a responsibility to act to protect this population from further harm.” 

The United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Azerbaijan to uphold the right of return for ethnic Armenians, instructing the country to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts” following its invasion last year. Despite these orders, recent satellite images show destruction of Armenian cultural heritage sites and residential buildings, prompting widespread concerns. 

Pressure continues to grow on Azerbaijan from the international community in the lead up to COP29, otherwise known as the Conference of the Parties, which will be held this November in Baku. In an April resolution, the EU reaffirmed that “the ongoing human rights violations in Azerbaijan are incompatible with the country’s preparations to host COP29.” U.S. senators have also called for the release of Armenian political leaders held in Azerbaijan, with several members of Congress sending a follow-up letter raising concerns in mid-May. French senators have also put forth resolutions proposing sanctions against Azerbaijan for its actions in Artsakh.

The Bonn Climate Change Conference, which started on June 3, has driven additional backlash against the Azeri government, including from the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, which published a statement criticizing Azerbaijan for touting a “COP of Peace” while carrying out genocidal actions.

Today, Azerbaijan sits below Saudi Arabia and Iran in Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the World report, currently scoring just 7 out of 100 points. The country also ranks 164th out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2024 Press Freedom Index, worse than Venezuela and Turkey.

At a protest on Friday, June 7, protestors appealed to delegates at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC SB60) meeting in Bonn to oppose Azerbaijan’s hosting of COP29 later this year. The activists reiterated the call for the Azeri government to release the 23 political prisoners it is illegally detaining in Baku.

By attending and supporting COP29 while the prisoners are still in illegal custody, the world is letting Azerbaijan greenwash its crimes, which are not limited to crimes against Armenians but against its own people as well. 

According to Human Rights Watch: “A crackdown on independent voices over the past year has resulted in the arrest or sentencing of at least 25 independent journalists and civil society activists on a variety of bogus criminal charges. Almost all remain in pretrial custody.”

As COP29 approaches, FreeArmenianPrisoners and its supporters and partners will continue to bring attention to the illegal actions of the Azeri government and call on the media to bring awareness to the suffering of the Armenian prisoners and the Armenian people.

To coordinate this effort, FreeArmenianPrisoners is collecting signatures to an online petition calling for the release of the prisoners.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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