Statement of the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan regarding the 27th anniversary of 20 January 1990 Tragedy

Twenty seven years have already passed since the bloody 20 January 1990 tragedy. This unforgettable massacre, grave crime against the humanity is commemorated with pain, every year. This tragedy engraved to our bloody memory as a “Black January Night” is not only a day of commemoration of pain, but also a day of commemoration of our martyrs, and of solidarity, proud and honor of our people fighting for the integrity of the country. These bloody events once more proved that our people are aimed at fighting for the sovereignty and own rights.

Due to support to Armenian separatism strengthening in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, integral part of Azerbaijan since 1988 and biased attitude to our country by the former Soviet State, the governmental organizations of this autonomous oblast were gradually removed from the jurisdiction of the country and Azerbaijanis were deported from their historical-ethnic lands in Armenia, they were exposed to violence and severe tortures, which exhausted the patience of our peopleBy instruction of the former Soviet government at that time, 20 January massacre was committed to suppress justified protests of the people ofAzerbaijan and to prevent national liberation movement inAzerbaijan.

Thus, at the night from 19 to 20 January, 1990, the Soviet armed forces as well as armored vehicles enteredBaku,Sumgait, also other cities and rayons of the country unexpectedly. Officers and soldiers of Armenian origin have been involved in operations, the landing troops taking out from ships with the use of tanks and other military equipment shot at civilians. Eventually, international legal norms, the relevant provisions of the formerUSSR, as well as of Azerbaijan SSR constitutions were severely violated and our multinational people rose to defend their lands and national identity were subjected to reprisals. 

Military forces entered theBakucity, killed 147 unarmed civilians including  elderly, women and children mercilessly regardless their nationality, age and sex. 744 innocent persons were injured in the capital city, surrounding settlements, and in districts, the hundreds were went missing and 841 persons were unlawfully imprisoned. Ambulances and physicians carrying the injured persons were also shot at; as a result, medical staff became martyr and was injured. Even after declaration of a state of emergency on January 20, 21 people were killed. The prohibited weapons and supplies were used during these attacks; people seriously injured were shot on the spot, and thrown under caterpillars of the heavy military vehicles. War criminals full of hatred against the Azerbaijanis destroyed the corps in order to hide their number.

The energy bloc of the state television was exploded, as a result of special operations held by the USSR Committee of State Security in order to  hide from the population the official information about entrance of the armed to the city.

As a result of this crime against humanity, the provisions of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international legal documents on human rights were severely violated, nevertheless, the tragedy of 20th January, 1990, one of the horrible crimes by its nature and scale committed in XX century was not legally assessed at the international level, the perpetrators and benefactors of this crime have not been yet punished.

Under the international law, the tragedy of 20th January, 1990 must be interpreted as a crime against humanity. According to the Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ‘crime against humanity’ means extermination; forced disappearance of persons; other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great sufferings, serious injury to body, to mental or physical health are defined as elements of the crime.

At that periodon behalf of all Azerbaijanis, the most relevant remarkable statement was made by the National leader Haydar Aliyev, whereas he demanded legally assess the crime against humanity committed on the 20th January and punish all offenders. The direct prosecutions of the head of formerSovietState by Heydar Aliyev, was an evidence of his courage and love to own people. 

It should be noted the bloodshed couldn’t break the will of the people and this fight for freedom resulted in re-gaining the independence ofAzerbaijan in 1991.

In 1993, at the initiative of Heydar Aliyev, who returned to the country’s leadership, the Parliament declared January 20 as a Day of Mourning, which is commemorated in the country each year.

Tragedy victims are buried in different cemeteries ofBakuand regions of the country, which turned into the holy place for the visitors. Appreciating the national freedom movement, our people commemorate own martyrs with deep respect.

According to the Presidential Decree, country citizens killed during those bloody event were awarded with honorary title “Martyr of the 20th January”, and in line with the Decree on “The Increasing of the State care to the persons who became disabled during 20th January events” different actions are being taken and these persons are provided with relevant allowance. Moreover, martyr’s families are provided with Presidential allowance.

The Soviet state violating the international legal norms, supported Armenia with this crime, as a result of which a long term Armenian aggression, ethnic cleansing and massacre were committed against Azerbaijan, twenty percent of our lands was occupied, people were withdrawn by force from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan, and seven surrounding districts of the country and a million of them became refugees and IDPs.

Since 2 April 2016, the Armenian armed forces abruptly started intensive shootings from the occupied Azerbaijani territories, as well as from the territory of the Republic of Armenia on the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, numerous dwellings, schools and other social objects along the frontline, also the positions of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces on the line of contact, by heavy artillery and big caliber weapons. As a result, civilians, including women and children were killed and severely injured. Thus, international legal documents, including provisions of the Geneva Conventions were grossly violated by the armed forces of Armenia committing such war crimes. These cases were witnessed by the representatives of international organizations and international journalists visiting our country.

The Azerbaijani side always strives for peaceful settlement of this conflict. The country President Ilham Aliyev repeatedly and resolutely states from influential international platforms the necessity of solution of the conflict within the territorial integrity of our country and withdrawal of the occupant armed forces from the Azerbaijani territories.

Like previous years, the Action Plan on “Commemorating the 27th anniversary of the tragedy of January 20”  has been approved with relevant Decree and it is being implemented. 

Raising awareness of the international community about the realities ofAzerbaijan, including the tragedy of January 20 is one of our main duties. We provided the comprehensive information about the genocide and terror acts against our people, April fights, as well as January 20 at numerous international events we participated in, the relevant statements were sent to international organizations.

Pursuant to the international law, there is sufficient legislative framework for the assessment of the events occurred on January 20, 1990, as a crime against humanity. Furthermore, there are also enough grounds for bringing the military servants committed those violent acts, as well as their commanders, the former Soviet Administration to the criminal responsibility, in particular.  

Considering all the above mentioned, we do hope that the international community, international organizations will support the just demands of Azerbaijani people and this bloody event will get its international legal recognition and the perpetrators won’t remain unpunished.


Elmira Suleymanova,

The Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman)

of theRepublicofAzerbaijan 



The Statement is sent to the UN Secretary-General, UN Security Council, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, European Commission, Council of Europe, Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, International and European Ombudsman Institutions, Asian Ombudsman Association, International Peace Bureau, foreign ombudspersons, embassies ofAzerbaijanabroad and foreign embassies toAzerbaijan, also Azerbaijani Diasporas.

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