On 25 July 2019 the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) published its ruling in the case of Vardanyan v. Armenia, ordering the state to pay the applicant a fine of over €1.6 million as compensation for human rights violations.
This judgment resulted from an application filed with the ECtHR in 2007 by three residents of Yerevan, Armenia. The three applicants were a family living in a house in the centre of the Armenian capital. They lodged their application with the Court on the basis that their house and the land it stood on had been seized by the state. In exchange, the family stated that they had received meagre compensation for the house, and no compensation at all for the land.
The story began in August 2002, when the Armenian Government expropriated real estate located in the centre of Yerevan for ‘State needs’. In reality, this resulted in the demolition of old houses in the area, with the government thereafter frequently selling the land to construction companies. During this development project, hundreds of residents in this area lost their homes, having received very low levels of compensation for their property. This was the case for the Vardanyan family who were not only undercompensated for their house but in fact were prevented from receiving any compensation for their land.
In 2005, following the private company’s lead, the government lodged a claim against Mr Vardanyan on the basis that the land did not belong to him as his ownership had never been recognised by a judicial act. The Applicants’ appeals against this claim were unsuccessful. They received no compensation for the land and Mr Vardanyan’s ownership rights were revoked. The government and the company then attempted to terminate Mr Vardanyan’s ownership of the house by offering him compensation and having him evicted. He was offered AMD 54,494,000, (approximately £86,704) although he himself estimated its value at AMD 272,971,313 (approximately £434,003). The family’s numerous appeals, which went all the way up to the Court of Cassation, were again unsuccessful.
This led to the family’s application to the ECtHR, which in 2016 recognised that Mr Vardanyan’s (and his family’s) human rights had been violated. Specifically, that there had been a violation of Article 6.1 (right to a fair hearing) and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court further accused the Chairman of the Court of Cassation of Armenia of bias and a violation of the right to a fair trial.
In July 2019 the ECtHR reached the controversial verdict that Armenia should pay the Vardanyan family €1,602,000 in financial damages and €6,000 for the non-financial damages they had suffered. This is more than the total amount of compensation the Court has ordered Armenia to pay from 2007 to 2018.
This substantial fine has raised questions about just satisfaction and has frustrated some in Armenia who do not believe that the current government should pay for the violations of its predecessor. Armenia’s representative in the European Court stated, however, “this is to some extent, the price to pay for violating the law”.
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