Der Krieg Aserbaidschans gegen Berg-Karabach im April 2016 aus völkerrechtlicher Sicht
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In early April 2016, serious clashes took place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces along the Nagorno-Karabakh armistice line drawn in May 1994. Before the international community could fully register what had happened and what it mean, the so-called »fourday war« came to an end through Russian mediation, and the ceasefire was restored grosso modo to its former conditions. However, the controversial question of which party had started the military attacks remained unresolved amidst mutual allegations on both sides. Other interested parties and those involved in managing the Karabakh conflict not only preferred to keep silent, but diplomatically refused to pick sides, instead firmly asking the parties to adhere to the armistice regime. Against this backdrop the article seeks to examine some key public international law problems raised in connection with the »April War«. However, it is first necessary to answer the question of which side broke the ceasefire agreements by taking military action and crossing the »line of contact«. After thorough analysis of all the relevant aspects, the article comes to the conclusion that it was Azerbaijan who launched a carefully planned and prepared large-scale surprise attack in an attempt to move the »line of contact« as far as possible to the west and thereby substantially extend its control over Karabakh-ruled territory. The question deriving from that, whether Azerbaijan by its attack has violated the general prohibition of use of force in international relations, is to be answered in the affirmative, for two reasons. First, under public international law the prohibition of use of force applies also to de facto States (or stabilized de facto regimes); Nagorno-Karabakh meets the relevant criteria, i.e. an effective government, as well as a certain degree of integration into international relations, in its case mainly by being a party of the tripartite ceasefire agreements of 11th May 1994 and 6th February 1995. Second, Azerbaijan has violated the general prohibition of use of force by breaking these ceasefire agreements, especially given that the 1970 Friendly Relations Declaration particularly emphasizes violations of international lines of demarcation as an infringement of Art. 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations. Since Azerbaijan cannot justify its military action under public international law, Nagorno-Karabakh's counterattacks, as well as their support from the Republic of Armenia, are justified by the right to (collective) self-defence (Art. 51 UN Charter).