YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The European Court of Human Rights has handed down almost 50 rulings against the Armenian authorities in the past seven years, costing them over 576,000 euros ($770,000) in damages, a senior official said on Thursday.
Deputy Justice Minister Arman Tatoyan said most of these cases have involved serious breaches of the due process of law which the Strasbourg-based court believes were committed by Armenian law-enforcement authorities and ignored by courts.
Armenia fell under the European Court’s jurisdiction as it joined the Council of Europe in 2001. Its government lost the first case in Strasbourg in 2007.
A large part of these cases has been filed by Armenian opposition activists arrested and prosecuted during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule and the February-March 2008 handover of power to Serzh Sarkisian, which was marred by the use of deadly force against opposition protesters in Yerevan. The European Court has also ordered the Armenian authorities to compensate some of the Yerevan residents displaced as a result of controversial redevelopment projects overseen by Kocharian.
“This shows that our courts are not yet independent,” Liparit Simonian, a trial attorney, said, commenting on the publicized court statistics. “They are dependent on law-enforcement bodies, tax bodies and certain individuals.”
Over the past year Simonian himself has lodged 10 appeals to Strasbourg against Armenian court verdicts on behalf of local clients. He has won two of those cases that cost the Armenian government a combined 16,700 euros.
Tatoyan acknowledged that Armenian taxpayers have to pay for inadequate decisions made by local judges. He noted that Armenian law allows disciplinary action against judges whose rulings are struck down by higher Armenian courts or international tribunals. One of them has already been subjected to such punishment, he said.
Simonian was skeptical on that score, however. He said Armenian judges will change ways only if they are made to personally pay financial compensations ordered by the Strasbourg court for their own decisions.