Restoration of IDPs’ human rights requires conflict settlement

By: Sara Rajabova

Azerbaijan has called for establishing a mechanism and the legal base to protect the rights of internally displaced people under the international law.

Gurban Sadigov, Head of the Department for the Problems of Refugees, IDPs and Migration of the Office of the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan, made the remark at the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, dedicated this year to Afghan refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, AzerTac news agency reported.

“We believe that the international community first of all has to prevent the occurrence of new armed conflicts and must seek efficient ways of solving the existing conflicts based on the generally accepted norms and principles of international law, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The strengthening of cooperation among various states and international organizations, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of Red Cross as well as the relevant UN mechanisms for the settlement of the problems of vulnerable persons is also a matter of great importance,” Sadigov said.

He noted that persons crossing international borders are protected by the norms defined in international refugee law, however, the same laws are not applicable to IDPs, whose protection is not considered sufficiently defined in international law.

“The current international law has a legal gap that is incapable of providing sufficient protection. That is, there is no obligatory document that could be applied to IDPs. We do believe that today may be the appropriate time for reviewing the drafting of an obligatory document based on the rules and norms reflected in the UN Guiding Principles on IDPs,” Sadigov said.

He recalled Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, which resulted in the expulsion of over a million Azerbaijanis from their own native lands.

“As is known, the military aggression launched by Armenia against Azerbaijan has caused people to be displaced from their native lands; this problem is still awaiting a solution. As a result of the ethnic cleansing conducted by Armenia, the number of refugees and IDPs from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan exceeds approximately one million two hundred thousand people,” Sadigov said.

With a population of over 9.6 million, Azerbaijan is among the countries of the world carrying the highest IDP caseload in per capita terms.

“Along with this, due to its rapid economic development, Azerbaijan has become a target destination country for migrants from third countries. Unfortunately, the Armenian government is misusing the existing migration problem in the world and settling Syrian refugees of Armenian descent in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. This is certainly the next step by Armenia aimed at the strengthening of its ethnic cleansing policy and is a consequence of the military aggression continued against Azerbaijan,” Sadigov underlined.

The Armenian leadership settles Armenian refugees from Syria in Azerbaijan’s occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region for the purpose of changing the demographic composition of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.

Settling Syrian refugees on occupied Azerbaijani territories constitutes an international crime, since the settlement of the refugees in disputed territories is a violation of international law. Baku has repeatedly warned that settling refugees in its occupied territories is a very dangerous process with unpredictable consequences.

Sadigov further highlighted the measures taken by the Azerbaijani government to tackle the problems facing refugees and IDPs.

“Azerbaijan has taken the burden for all the problems of the people having been forced to leave their native lands. It has allocated significant resources for improving the general living conditions of this group of people in recent years,” the official said,

He noted that in the past 20 years, approximately $6 billion has been spent on solving the social problems of IDPs in Azerbaijan.

“This has primarily resulted in better accommodations and a significant decrease in poverty among IDPs. In 2007, the last IDP tent camp in the country was abolished. Our achievements, aimed at strengthening the social, educational, medical and economic sustainability of the IDPs have been appreciated by various international organizations,” Sadigov said.

He, however, pointed out that despite the huge efforts made by the government, an overall solution to the IDP issue is still not possible. He added that to date, 400,000 IDPs continue to live in old and unsuitable housing under difficult conditions. “The large volume and persistence of the IDP problem in the country has necessitated the support of international organizations and donors.”

Sadigov went on to say that the full restoration of the human rights of IDPs requires the settlement of the conflict.

Azerbaijan’s position on this issue is quite clear: all occupied Azerbaijani territories must be liberated and the rights of the IDPs to return to their homes and property with dignity must be ensured, the official stressed.

“The Azerbaijani government has developed a comprehensive program titled ‘The Great Return’ in cooperation with international organizations, which defines the voluntary return principle after settlement of the conflict and ensures the return of people from their displaced lives to normal ones,” Sadigov said, voicing hope that necessary conditions will soon be created for the implementation of that program.

The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented the UN Security Council’s four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

Meanwhile, OSCE is expected to monitor the contact line between Azerbaijani and Armenian armies on October 9, the Ministry said.

The monitoring will be held under the mandate of the OSCE chairperson-in-office personal representative on the contact line near the village of Kemerli of Azerbaijan’s Gazakh district, the ministry said.