No:015/23, Press Release on arbitration filed by Azerbaijan against Armenia for widespread environmental destruction
On January 18, 2023, Azerbaijan has commenced the first known inter-state arbitration under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. The historic case aims to hold Armenia accountable for its extensive destruction of Azerbaijan’s environment and biodiversity during its nearly thirty years of illegal occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan.
Upon liberating its territories in 2020, Azerbaijan collected evidences about Armenia’s destruction of the environment during illegal occupation. These activities while causing severe harm to the area’s natural habitats and species, depleted natural resources and destroyed biodiversity.
Armenia’s widespread deforestation, unsustainable logging, and pollution through significant construction and mining in areas that were protected nature reserves prior to occupation has put over 500 wildlife species at risk in Azerbaijan.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) noted in 2022 that “specially protected and valuable forests” in areas of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia were not spared. There is visual evidence showing the shocking scale of deforestation, including destroying habitats to build the Damirli-1 mine, the Galacha hydropower plant in Lachin, and the Chardaghli mine.
Armenia’s actions have caused extraordinary levels of river pollution, including in transboundary rivers that run from Armenia into Azerbaijan’s territory.
The UNEP also noted in 2022 that Armenia’s mining development in the region caused “chemical pollution of water, soil and biota” in river habitats, with hundreds of fish found dead in the Okhchuchay River and several protected fish and amphibian species threatened.
Azerbaijan’s interstate legal action notes that Armenia has violated its legal obligations under the Bern Convention to maintain populations of all wild flora and fauna, especially in the area of ensuring conservation, restoration and improvements to the habitats of wild flora and fauna, among others.
In keeping with the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Azerbaijan calls on the international community to condemn Armenia’s appalling destruction during the occupation of one of the world’s most rich and biodiverse ecologies.
Within the framework of arbitration, Azerbaijan demands to order Armenia to cease all ongoing violations of the Bern Convention, and pay full reparation for its environmental destruction in the formerly occupied territories.