YEREVAN (A.W.)—Residents of Buzand St. in Yerevan took their complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) when they were evicted—and under-compensated—by the state to pave the way for a new construction project: Northern Avenue. In recent rulings on Hovhannisyan and Siroyan v. Armenia, the ECHR decided in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them monetary compensation.
On Nov. 15, the court awarded the plaintiffs 18,500 euros in damages, and an additional 45 euros to Hovhannisyan for court-related costs and expenses. The state has three months to pay the sum. The court based its judgment on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (Protection of Property) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision is a chamber judgment, and is therefore not final.
The Hovannisyan family was evicted in 2005. The family was paid $10,500, a sum too little to afford another apartment, Sedrak Baghdasaryan, the president of the NGO “Victims of State Needs,” told Human Rights in Armenia (HRA), a wing of the Civil Society Institute. Baghdasaryan also noted that there are 20 more cases pending in the ECHR against the Republic of Armenia over property rights.
The construction company that bought the properties on Buzand St. is now bankrupt and facing criminal charges, according to Vahe Grigoryan, the lawyer representing the Hovannisyans. The state must now compensate the more than two dozen families who were evicted and under-compensated from 2000-06. According to ArmeniaNow, the court has thus far awarded eight families a total sum exceeding $500,000. Another 10 cases—over the same construction project—are pending.
Six months earlier, the ECHR awarded a symbolic 8,000 euros to Nelly Minasyan and Yelena Semerjyan after the two women were evicted from their residences on Buzand St. The construction company offered the former owners $6,000 for the 26 square-meter property, and an additional $6,000 for a speedy eviction. The women went through the domestic judicial processes without a satisfactory outcome, and finally applied to the ECHR and demanded 200,000 euros in compensation. Because the court could not determine the value of the property, it awarded the plaintiffs a fraction of their demands.
The construction of Northern Avenue was part of a government plan—dubbed “State Needs”—to encourage urban development. The plan was implemented under then-President Robert Kocharyan, who took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the controversial opening. Many critics and residents opposed the plan because it failed to consider the needs of the residents of the neighborhood. Property owners were inadequately compensated, forcefully evicted, and threatened with violence if they resisted, according to human rights organizations.