Three more families evicted from their homes during a controversial redevelopment in central Yerevan a decade ago have won lawsuits filed against the Armenian government in the European Court of Human Rights.
The court ordered the government this week to pay them a total of 160,000 euros ($200,000) in damages for the demolition of their old houses and confiscation of land owned by them.
Hundreds of such homes were torn down in the early and mid-2000s to make way for expensive residential and office buildings constructed by private developers in accordance with a government-backed plan. Many of the displaced families were unhappy with modest compensations offered by the state. Some challenged the eviction orders with physical resistance and lawsuits.
Armenian courts sided with the government in almost all of those cases, leading the plaintiffs to appeal to the European Court. The Strasbourg-based court has handed down dozens of rulings in their favor in recent years.
Tatyana Zarikiants and her family are among the beneficiaries of the latest court verdicts on the Yerevan demolitions, having secured 44,000 euros worth of compensation. Zarikiants called the ruling a “very big moral victory.”
“My kids were thrown out onto the street like enemies,” Zarikiants told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), recalling their eviction in 2005. A government body overseeing the redevelopment paid the family only $20,000 for the lost property at the time, hardly enough to buy an apartment even in the city’s outskirts.
According to Artur Grigorian, a lawyer who has represented the three families in Strasbourg, all of them have had to rent apartments for the past nine years. Grigorian said his clients will now use the European Court’s decisions to bring fresh compensation cases against the government in Armenian courts.
The government attempted to settle the cases in 2010 when it offered to provide the three families with new and free apartments built near their former homes. In Grigorian’s words, the deal fell through after government officials demanded that they pay back the $20,000 compensations that were paid to each of them. The lawyer said it also emerged that the apartments promised to the plaintiffs belonged to other people.
Armenia fell under the European Court’s jurisdiction when it joined the Council of Europe in 2001. As of August 2014, the authorities in Yerevan lost almost 50 court cases in Strasbourg, having to pay 576,000 euros as a result. A large part of those cases were filed by Armenian opposition activists arrested and prosecuted during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule and after the February-March 2008 handover of power to Serzh Sarkisian, which was marred by deadly unrest in Yerevan.