Terrorist attack on the Embassy of Azerbaijan: Is the motive so simple?

Expert opinion – by Mr. Sabuhi Abbasov, Lawyer

Head of the Western Regional Centre of the Comissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan

It is well known that the establishment of diplomatic relations between States, and of permanent diplomatic missions, takes place by mutual consent and peoples of all nations from ancient times have recognized the status of diplomatic agents and members of diplomatic missions. For this purpose international community adopted common standards that should be implement by all states. The main principle is that the premises of the diplomatic mission shall be inviolable. But the terrorist attack on the Azerbaijani embassy that occurred in 27/01/2023 in Tehran, Iran, which resulted in the death and injury of employees of the diplomatic mission was obviously breach of international law. This incident is a serious violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Thus, according to Article 22 of the Vienna Convention, the receiving State is under special duty to protect the premises of the mission against intrusion and damage, and to take necessary measures for ensuring the normal operation of the mission. This criminal act is also a serious breach of the 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents.

The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has demanded the soonest investigation into the terrorist act and punishment of the terrorists.

After incident the Iranian officials did not hesitate to immediately state that the reason for the attack on the embassy was family problems. According to the spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs initial investigations by relevant officials and bodies indicate that “a personal motive” was behind the action and the case is under investigation so that the aspects of this act and the motive will come to light. In this regard it should be noted that the Iranian state is responsible under international law, regardless of the motive of the brutal crime against Azerbaijan’s diplomatic mission in Tehran.

In addition, it should be noted that the chronology of the crime gives us reasons to say that this incident was not committed just by a simple family motive and a number of analyzes show that the crime that occurred was not related to such a primitive reason. Thus, the video circulated on social media shows an assailant forcing his way into the embassy in front of the Iranian police who are supposed to protect the embassy and then opening fire at the picket of embassy guards. In that situation, the Iranian police obviously did not intervene in the event. Amid the chaotic situation, embassy personnel rushed at the assailant in an attempt to disarm him. It was clear that the number of victims would have been even higher if the brave embassy employee had not disarmed the assailant.

Another interesting point is that Iranian state TV quoted Tehran’s police chief Rahimi as saying the gunman had entered the embassy with his two children during the attack. However, surveillance footage from inside the embassy released in social media, which matched details of the other video of the aftermath and bore a timestamp matching the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry’s statement, showed the gunmen burst through the embassy’s doors alone.
An interview was arranged with the detainee for a local TV channel, where he spoke about his motives and Iran probably took a unique step in world history as the first country to interview a terrorist. These facts once again show that the incident was not caused by individual motives.

So, when looking at the whole picture, doubts about the motive of the crime grow even more. The constant violation of the rights of 40 million of Azerbaijanis residing in South Azerbaijan and the lack of guarantees of inviolability of any diplomatic mission in Iran, or any person there is well known fact. In addition, we have been witnessing Iran and Armenia consistently commit join unlawful action within the borders of Azerbaijan. For example, 27 Iranian citizens recently used the Lacin road to join the separatists in Karabakh for unknown purposes, and Armenia and Iran have yet to make any statement regarding this matter. Iran also has opened a consulate in the city of Gafan in Armenia, in what appears to be a gesture of support for Yerevan, after recent military clashes in the region and launched a military exercise near the Azerbaijan border, flexing its martial might amid the nationwide protests rocking the Islamic Republic.

All the mentioned facts show that the terrorist attack on the embassy of Azerbaijan in Tehran was a part of Iran’s destructive policy. This bloody act of terrorism should be investigated by the Iranian Government as soon as possible, the criminals should be punished, and the obligations established by international binding documents should be fulfilled.