The visit on 8 July to leading London think-tank The Royal Institute of International Affairs by the controversial Bako Sahakyan (head of the illegal Armenian occupying regime in Nagorno-Karabakh) has resulted in a noisy protest in Central London by Azerbaijani students and professionals, standing alongside supporters of international law from the UK, Turkey and other countries. The protest attracted coverage from the Azerbaijani and UK media.
Prior to and during his participation in a discussion on Nagorno-Karabakh: Domestic Developments and Regional Challenges, protesters chanted slogans outside Chatham House, including ‘Sahakyan – Karabakh is Azerbaijan’ and ‘We want justice – when do want it? Now!’ As he left the building they shouted: ‘Sahakyan – War Criminal!’, thereby making their thoughts known about a man whose policies continue to stop around 875,000 Azerbaijanis internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees from returning to their rightful homes.
A digivan, exhibiting emotionally-charged photos of Azerbaijani IDPs taken by leading photojournalist Ed Kashi in displacement camps, demonstrated the ongoing human impact of Armenian policy in the region. It remained outside Chatham House for the duration of the debate before touring Central London.
Formerly a Deputy Commander during the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and head of the Security Services in the occupied territories from 2001–07, Sahakyan’s intransigence has played a major role in halting progression in the peace talks between the sides. He has been head of the occupying regime since 2007, and has repeatedly pledged to seek recognition of the full independence for Nagorno-Karabakh.
Using the controversial Armenian name of ‘Artsakh’ to refer to Nagorno-Karabakh, he delivered a speech earlier this year saying: “The path we have chosen is irreversible, as it is just and sanctified by the blood of our martyrs. We are obliged to strengthen our statehood day by day, develop our economy and improve the living conditions of people. We ought to realise our nation's aspirations and desires, guided by the letter and spirit of the law, and build a strong legal state. That is the only way towards the prosperity of Artsakh, its international recognition and integration with the civilised world.”
The ongoing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts continues in defiance of four outstanding UN Security Council resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), and the European Parliament, amongst other bodies, has also condemned the occupation. The OSCE Minsk Group – chaired by the US, France and Russia – has unsuccessfully sought to establish a negotiated peace for over 20 years.