The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Armenian authorities to pay 12,000 euros ($17,300) to two former Yerevan residents who were forcibly evicted from their home as a result of a controversial redevelopment of the city center.
Nelli Minasian and her daughter Yelena Semerjian owned a tiny apartment in an old house in a Yerevan neighborhood that was bulldozed in 2003-2007 to make room for expensive residential and office buildings.
Hundreds of local families were displaced in the process. Many of them staged protests, saying that financial compensation offered to them was set well below the market value of their homes because of government corruption.
The authorities denied the accusations and insisted that most displaced families are satisfied with the sums paid by the state. The redevelopment overseen by then President Robert Kocharian went ahead even after it was effectively declared illegal by Armenia’s Constitutional Court in 2006.
Minasian and Semerjian were offered $13,000 for their 26 square-meter home, hardly enough to buy an apartment in any part of Yerevan. The two women refused the payment and appealed to the European Court before emigrating to the United States.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled in June 2009 that their eviction violated an article of the European Convention on Human Rights that protects private property. The court took two years to determine the amount of compensation that must be paid by the authorities in Yerevan.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Liza Grigorian, criticized the ruling as unjust, arguing that the compensation pales in comparison with 200,000 euros demanded by her clients.
“I find very dangerous the court’s justification of this symbolic sum,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “The court ruled that the dispossession process was illegal but ordered a modest compensation on the grounds that it is not impossible to determine the value of the property because it doesn’t exist anymore.”
“That means the state can strip anyone of their property and tear it down, after which it won’t be possible to determine its real price,” she said.
In Grigorian’s words, it also means the authorities will not be worried even if they lose ten other eviction cases pending against them in Strasbourg. “It is obviously more beneficial for the state to violate human rights than to pay a fair price for people’s homes,” she said.
There was no immediate reaction to the ruling from the government.