A U.S. lawmaker and a Catholic bishop are calling for action to end a months-long blockade that has left some 120,000 ethnic Armenians at risk of what he and other experts are calling “genocide by starvation.”

“It’s now a three-alarm fire that’s getting worse by the moment,” said Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, speaking as he chaired a Sept. 6 emergency hearing of a bipartisan congressional human rights commission.

For the past nine months, Azerbaijan has closed the only road leading from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh (known in Armenian by its ancient name, Artsakh), a historic Armenian enclave located in southwestern Azerbaijan and internationally recognized as part of that nation. The blockade of the three-mile (five-kilometer) Lachin Corridor, which connects the roughly 1,970 square mile enclave to Armenia, has deprived residents of food, baby formula, oil, medication, hygienic products and fuel — even as a convoy of trucks with an estimated 400 tons of aid is stalled at the single Azerbaijani checkpoint.

Expert witnesses at the hearing included Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who served as the first chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court from 2003-2012; and David L. Phillips, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and director of Columbia University’s Artsakh Atrocities Project.

Both stressed the need for urgent action to end the blockade as well as atrocities committed by Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians.

Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the California-based Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg (who did not attend the hearing) told OSV News that with the area surrounded by Muslim-majority Azerbaijan, the blockade amounts to “a pure and simple religious (and) ethnic cleansing.

If the Armenians of Artsakh were Muslims, they wouldn’t be treated as they are now.”

He also said Congress “should without any delay put up a bipartisan human rights act … a law that should be put directly in practice to prevent yet another Armenian Genocide. That is inevitable if things continue like they are now.”