1. The People of Nagorno Karabakh are Europeans. However, citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) have to face challenges that are totally alien to the core European values and the human rights culture.
2. Following the collapse of the USSR, the former Soviet nation-state entity, known as the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region, as well as the Armenian-inhabited Shahumian region, merged to form the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) (also called as Artsakh), with its capital Stepanakert.
3. On September 02, 1991 NKR declared its independence in full compliance with the fundamental norms and principles of international law. Ever since, the Republic has consistently pursued a continuous policy of maintaining peace and stability in the Southern Caucasus region. The NKR public authorities and people follow the international human rights standards and apply these standards in the country’s legal framework, as well as their day-today life.
4. On December 10, 1991, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, a referendum was held in Nagorno Karabakh with the overwhelming majority of the participants (99.98%) voting in favour of full independence from Azerbaijan. On December 28, 1991 the first parliamentary elections of NKR were held, and the first NKR Government was formed, accordingly.
5. The NKR authorities commenced their functioning under the conditions of total blockade, war and aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan. The active warfare ended in May, 1994 by a Ceasefire Agreement. Despite the existence of the Agreement and the commitment of the parties to refrain from the use of force and resolve the issue through negotiations on setting legally binding mechanisms, Azerbaijan has been periodically and unilaterally breaching the Ceasefire Agreement. However, those breaches were until recently of a relatively low scale.
6. In the early morning hours of April 02, 2016 the Azerbaijani military forces breached the Ceasefire Agreement of 1994 again through a well-planned large-scale massive attack. The most serious and bloody military operation along the entire NKR-Azerbaijani line of contact for the last 20 years was initiated.
7. The Azerbaijani side deployed tanks, military helicopters, heavy artillery, rocket launchers, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (including Smerch 300mm MLRS, TOS-1 Solntsepyok multiple rocket launcher, IAI Harop drones, etc.), and other deadly weapons.
8. In blatant total disregard of obligations stemming from the applicable provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law, the Azerbaijani military forces targeted the peaceful population, especially children and the elderly, as well as civilian objects, including schools and kindergartens.
9. The most horrifying facts are the killings of peaceful civilians of Nagorno Karabakh through cruel and inhuman methods of execution and mutilation. Similar practices of humiliation were applied in relation to members of the NKR Defence Army. Moreover, some of the NKR soldiers were, along with other forms of dismemberment, also subjected to beheading.
10. As further detailed in this report, the acts of brutality were committed against peaceful civilians of the NKR solely due to their Armenian ethnicity. Such conduct is in line with Azerbaijani Government’s consistent and purposeful policy of inciting hatred and racial discrimination against Armenians.
11. The ISIS-style atrocities, deeply rooted in Azerbaijan’s state-supported propaganda of hatred and violence, gravely endanger the European human rights system as a whole. This situation threatens to escalate largely with unpredictable consequences if not effectively prevented and duly acted upon by the international community.