YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A senior judge of Armenia’s Court of Cassation who upheld a controversial ruling in a Yerevan family’s property compensation dispute with the government has been urged to resign after the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) challenged his conduct in a ruling described by some leading Armenian lawyers as “unprecedented.”
The plaintiffs, the family of Yuri Vardanian, Artashes Vardanian and Shushanik Nanushian, had claimed the Armenian authorities paid them only less than a fifth of the real market value of their house estimated at 276 million drams (about $580,000) in compensation after it was demolished as part of a government-backed redevelopment project in central Yerevan.
Courts in Armenia, including the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest judicial instance, ruled in favor of the government, after which the family sued the Republic of Armenia at the Strasbourg-based court.
The ECtHR decision on the so-called Vardanian and Nanushian v. Armenia case publicized last week recognized that the Republic of Armenia violated “the principle of legal certainty and equality of arms, lack of a fair hearing by an impartial tribunal and deprivation of property.”
In its verdict the European Court also gave an assessment to the current chairman of the Armenian Court of Cassation Arman Mkrtumian, referred as Judge M. “Judge M.’s conduct, lacking in the necessary detachment demanded by the principle of judicial neutrality, raised an objectively justified fear that he lacked impartiality when deciding the applicant’s case within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention,” the ruling reads.
Leading Armenian lawyer Gevorg Gyozalian described the kind of assessment as “unprecedented” for Armenia. “Being familiar with the rulings of the ECtHR I can say that to date I haven’t seen a ruling on Armenia in which the ECtHR would expressly state an opinion about a specific judge,” he said over the weekend.