Washington, D.C. - Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the House Global Human Rights Subcommittee, introduced bipartisan legislation with Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jim Costa (D-CA), and French Hill (R-AR) as original cosponsors of the bill, to prevent ethnic cleansing and atrocities against the Armenian people and provide humanitarian assistance to Armenians in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). The legislation, Preventing Ethnic Cleansing and Atrocities in Nagorno-Karabakh Act of 2023 (HR 5686), requires the State Department to create a strategy to promote long-term security and well-being of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh through important security provisions, as well as "assess incitement of ethnic hatred and violence, human rights violations, atrocities, war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including elements of these crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas of Azerbaijan in relation to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh." Imposing sanctions on the government of Azerbaijan related to ethnic cleansing in Artsakh, authorized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act is emphasized in the legislation, as well as providing "$30 million in humanitarian assistance to groups in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh impacted by the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijan’s September 2022 attack on Armenia, and Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor." "The people of Nagorno-Karabakh are in grave danger,” said Smith. "Tragically, they have been forced to disarm and surrender their independence to a ruthless dictator whose government has repeatedly committed horrific abuses against them over many years, expressed its will to ethnically cleanse them, and even initiated a genocide by starvation with the blockade of the Lachin Corridor." He concluded: "The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh have, as ever, every right to continue to live in their ancient homeland—and to do so in safety." The Assembly's Executive Director Bryan Ardouny stated: "The Assembly welcomes this bipartisan legislation spearheaded by Congressman Chris Smith, a long-time defender of human rights, for introducing this critically important Bill to help the Armenian people and hold Azerbaijan accountable." Earlier this month Congressman Smith chaired the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission emergency hearing on the ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which featured testimony from Luis Morena Ocampo, whose Expert Opinion emphasized Azerbaijan's actions as Genocide."
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.