Armenia’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has sent letters to all court chairmen, asking them to submit an analysis of the rulings against Armenia issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The move comes days after the Strasbourg-based body 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 in the early 2000s.
“We need to understand what systemic gaps we have,” SJC member Hayk Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
“Basically, [in ECHR rulings] we deal with either a violation of the right to a fair trial or a violation of the right to property,” said Hovannisian, adding that most ECHR rulings against Armenia concern the protection of these two fundamental rights in cases like controversial redevelopment projects in Yerevan or controversial mine development projects in the regions.
Before ordering the massive compensation to the Armenian citizen, in 2016 the ECHR ruled 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. Besides, it was stressed that the then chairman of the Court of Cassation Arman Mkrtumian did not show an objective position.
Mkrtumian, who was appointed chairman of the Court of Cassation by the decree of Armenia’s third President Serzh Sarkisian in 2008, resigned in July 2018 two months after the change of government in Armenia. Despite the opinion expressed by the Strasbourg-based court, the SJC today has no jurisdiction to raise the issue of Mkrtumian’s lack of impartiality.
“We have several issues here, the first being the legislative regulation. The former Judicial Code allowed for disciplinary action against a judge as a result of ECHR verdicts. The current Judicial Code does not provide us with such an opportunity because it says that if five years pass after judicial proceedings and the judicial act, then no disciplinary proceedings can be instituted,” said Hovannisian, adding that often officials have hoped to avoid sanctions because of that provision.
According to the SJC member, the Ministry of Justice is currently working on an amendment to the Judicial Code which will restore the possibility for the Supreme Judicial Council to use disciplinary action against judges based on ECHR rulings anyway.
In the time to come the Strasbourg-based court is expected to issue more rulings in disputes between citizens and the government of Armenia and predictably they will be in favor of Armenian citizens. The cases range from the 2008 post-election crackdown on the opposition to controversial redevelopment projects in downtown Yerevan in the 2000s.
SJC member Hovannisian suggests setting up a commission to establish all those who are responsible for the decisions – be them from the former government or the Court of Cassation.