The number of appeals filed by Armenians in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) fell by more than half last year, the Strasbourg-based tribunal said on Thursday.
“For Armenia, 356 new applications were received by the Court, less than 50 percent as compared to 753 new applications in 2016,” the ECHR said in an annual report presented by its president, Guido Raimondi, at a news conference.
The sharp drop contrasts with a 19 percent rise in applications received by the ECHR from citizens of all Council of Europe member states. They totaled 63,350 in 2017.
Armenia fell under the European court’s jurisdiction when it joined the Council of Europe in 2001. Its government lost the first case in Strasbourg in 2007.
The ECHR has ruled against various Armenian government, judicial and law-enforcement bodies on 79 occasions since then, costing them about 1 million euros ($1.2 million) in damages. “The highest number of violations related to the right to a fair trial, and right to liberty and security,” says its report.
The ECHR handed down 11 rulings against the Armenian state in 2017. “For Armenia, there are 1,819 applications pending … Armenia is thus within the top-ten states by the number of pending applications,” it said.
The large number of lawsuits reflects a lack of judicial independence and widespread corruption among law-enforcement officers and judges in Armenia. Armenian courts are still mistrusted by many citizens despite having undergone frequent structural changes in the last two decades. They rarely acquit criminal suspects and usually allow their pre-trial arrests sought by prosecutors.
Armenia’s former Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian warned last year that law-enforcement authorities’ long-running practice of routinely keeping suspects in custody may put them at odds with the ECHR. Kostanian, who now represents Armenia in the ECHR, said that the Strasbourg-based court has adopted stricter requirements for pre-trial arrests.