The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday ordered Armenia to pay as much as 1.6 million euros ($1.8 million) in compensation to an Armenian man whose house and land had been expropriated during a controversial redevelopment of downtown Yerevan.
The ECHR set the amount of “just satisfaction” for Yuri Vartanian, an 83-year-old Yerevan resident, nearly three years after ruling that Armenian authorities violated his rights to property ownership and a fair hearing in court.
Vartanian and his family used to own a house and a plot of land in an old district in the city center which was slated for demolition in the early 2000s as part of redevelopment projects initiated by then President Robert Kocharian. A real estate agency authorized by the state estimated the market value of the 1,400 square-meter property at more than $700,000 in May 2005.
A few months later, Yerevan’s municipal administration and, Vizkon, a private developer cooperating with it, challenged Vartanian’s ownership rights in court, saying that they had never been recognized by any judicial act. The claim was accepted by a district court but rejected by Armenia’s Court of Appeals.
According to ECHR documents, the municipality and Vizkon expressed readiness to settle the case when it reached the higher Court of Cassation in 2006. They offered to give Vartanian USD $390,000 in cash as well as a 160- square-meter apartment and 40 square-meter office premises in the city center.
Vartanian rejected the proposed settlement, drawing a stern rebuke from Arman Mkrtumian, the then chairman of the Court of Cassation who presided over hearings on the case. A court panel consisting of Mkrtumian and two other judges subsequently ruled against Vartanian. The latter appealed to the ECHR in 2007.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled in October 2016 that Armenian courts and other entities violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the right to a fair hearing and protection of property.
“I consider the ruling fair because we have finally won morally,” Vartanian’s wife, Shushanik Nanushian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
However, Nanushian was not satisfied with the size of the financial compensation set by the ECHR, claiming that it constitutes only a fraction of the real market value of the property lost by her family.
The sum due to be paid to Vartanian exceeds the total amount of damages awarded by the ECHR since 2007 to all other Armenian plaintiffs combined. The latter include nine other Yerevan residents who had lost their properties in similar circumstances. According to Armenia’s representative to the Strasbourg court, Yeghishe Kirakosian, ECHR verdicts have obligated Yerevan to pay them a total of 324,581 euros in damages.