Skip to content
September 12, 2023

Statement for the Record: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on the situation in Artsakh

Washington, DC Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), submitted the following statement for the record to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in relation to its September 6 hearing “Nagorno-Karabakh: Update.”

You can find the full text of the statement for the record here and below:

“Since the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission last convened a hearing on “Safeguarding the People of Nagorno-Karabakh” on June 21, the crisis has deteriorated significantly. I thank co-Chairs Rep. Smith and Rep. McGovern for continuing to shine a light on human rights violations and atrocities taking place in Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) today at the hands of the Government of Azerbaijan, and the witnesses for appearing today to share their expert analysis with us. This crisis demands immediate action by the U.S. government, Congress, and the international community, and we must continue to press for urgent life-saving steps and stand with the people of Artsakh.

For nearly nine months, the people of Artsakh have been living under Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor – the only road connecting Artsakh to the outside world – with devastating effects. Some 120,000 individuals continue to be denied access to food, water, medical supplies and services, gas, and consistent electricity. While previously the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to provide limited deliveries of essential food and medicine and facilitate regular transport for medical procedures, Azerbaijan weeks ago cut off access to even the ICRC. As ICRC stated, “Tens of thousands of people rely on humanitarian aid reaching them through these routes.” With this lifeline severed, the population is completely isolated and the toll on civilians is escalating rapidly. On August 15, Armenian press reported the first death in Artsakh due to starvation as a result of the blockade. Media also reported two children, age three and six years old, died in Martakert when their mother had to leave them alone to go search for food. If the status quo is maintained, sadly these are unlikely to be the last preventable casualties. There is no question that the situation is now a “dire humanitarian crisis,” as stated by a group of UN experts on August 7.

The population of Artsakh is in urgent need of assistance, including those most vulnerable – pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Supplies of life-saving medications and baby formula are depleted. Health authorities in Artsakh have reported a surge in the disease incidence and death rate related to malnutrition and lack of medicines. BBC reported that one in three deaths in Artsakh is now due to malnutrition, according to local authorities. The level of anemia among pregnant women reportedly reached approximately 90 percent in August, reports of miscarriages have risen due to lack of medicine and basic food items, and incidents of fainting due to malnutrition have become widely reported. According to the Armenian government, about 20,000 elderly people in Artsakh are unable to move due to absence of public transportation; 30,000 children are struggling from malnutrition and lack of food; 270 children are unable to reunite with their families in Artsakh; 2,000 pregnant women residing in Artsakh lack basic access to health care; 9,000 people with disabilities are deprived of proper medical care; and 4,700 people with diabetes and 8,450 people with circulatory diseases are running out of essential medicine. There are reports of at least one pregnant woman who lost her child because there was no gas available for transportation to the hospital. At this very moment, a convoy of trucks carrying 400 tons of humanitarian aid is blocked by Azerbaijan and not allowed to enter Artsakh. Baku has also blocked a convoy of 10 trucks carrying humanitarian aid from several regions of France and led by the mayor of Paris from entering Artsakh. All of these actions are in clear violation of international law and the 2020 trilateral ceasefire statement, a point that was reiterated by a number of UN Security Council members in an August 16 emergency session examining the crisis.

The grave consequence of the blockade is that innocent civilians are increasingly suffering from malnutrition and facing the imminent threat of starvation – in accordance with Aliyev’s deliberate and strategic design. This inhumane and evil campaign to destroy a people is hauntingly familiar to Armenians, whose ancestors suffered the horror of the Armenian Genocide 108 years ago. I am desperately concerned about the safety of the people of Artsakh and their right to survive and lead dignified lives. I am grateful for the testimony of Professor Phillips, whose organization has documented serious human rights violations that demand accountability, and of Mr. Moreno Ocampo, who has found “There is a reasonable basis to believe that a Genocide is being committed against Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2023.” We must prevent another Armenian Genocide from occurring.
I have been continuously calling for Azerbaijan to comply with international court orders, international law, and the ceasefire statement by immediately lifting the blockade of the Lachin Corridor. I have called on the Biden Administration to cut off aid to Azerbaijan, impose sanctions on Azerbaijani officials responsible for the blockade, and deliver U.S. humanitarian assistance to the people of Artsakh. With winter quickly approaching, the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh will only become more dire and challenging, and I will not let up in my efforts to condemn Azerbaijan’s aggression and stand by the people of Artsakh. We must continue to use all available tools to bring an end to this crisis and stand up for human rights, democracy, and rule of law in the South Caucasus.”