THE HAGUE — The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has published a preliminary order calling on Azerbaijan to ensure the safety of Armenians who want to return to Nagorno-Karabakh following their forced exodus by Azerbaijan.

The ICJ decision on November 17 concluded that pending a final decision in the case, Azerbaijan must ensure that people who left Nagorno-Karabakh after September 19 and wish to return “are able to do so in a safe, unimpeded, and expeditious manner.”

The same applies to people who wish to depart Nagorno-Karabakh, while those who wish to stay must remain “free from the use of force or intimidation that may cause them to flee,” the court said in its decision, approved 13-2 by the judges.

The judges also called on Azerbaijan to “protect and preserve registration, identity, and private property documents and records” of people in the region and told the country to submit a report to the UN’s top court within eight weeks on the steps taken to apply the provisional measures.

The decision is a preliminary step in a case brought by Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of breaching an international convention against racial discrimination linked to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The decision released on November 17 comes after Armenia asked The Hague-based ICJ to order provisional measures guaranteeing safety and protecting property and identity documents.

The ICJ decision also said that Azerbaijan’s operation in Nagorno-Karabakh took place in the context of “the long-standing exposure of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh to a situation of vulnerability and social precariousness.”

It said the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh “have been severely impacted by the long-lasting disruption of the connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia via the Lachin Corridor.”

While the ICJ’s decisions are legally binding, the court lacks the authority to enforce them. Azerbaijan’s Dictator Ilham Aliyev conducted a military parade in Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital city, asserting complete control of the entirely deserted region, where most ethnic Armenians having already fled.

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