The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that the Republic of Armenia is to pay 9,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage and 2,600 euros in respect of costs and expenses to Alexander Arzumanyan, who currently serves as the country’s Ambassador to Sweden.
The case concerns the applicant’s conviction for his involvement in the protest movement that followed the disputed presidential election of 19 February 2008 and raises issues under Articles 10, 11 and 14 of the Convention.
On 19 February 2008 a presidential election was held in Armenia. The main contenders were the then Prime Minister, Mr Serzh Sargsyan, representing the ruling party, and the main opposition candidate, Mr Levon Ter-Petrosyan.
Immediately after the announcement of the preliminary results of the election, Mr Ter-Petrosyan called on his supporters to gather at Freedom Square in central Yerevan in order to protest against the irregularities which had allegedly occurred in the election process, announcing that the election had not been free and fair. From 20 February 2008 onwards, nationwide daily protest rallies were held by Mr Ter-Petrosyan’s supporters, their main meeting place being Freedom Square and the surrounding park. It appears that the rallies at Freedom Square attracted at times tens of thousands of people, while several hundred demonstrators stayed in that area around the clock, having set up a camp.
The applicant, who was a known political figure and a former minister of foreign affairs, acted as the head of Mr Ter-Petrosyan’s pre-election campaign and was actively involved in the post-election protests, regularly attending the demonstrations held at Freedom Square and giving speeches.
On 10 March 2008 the applicant was arrested by officers of the National Security Service on suspicion of usurpation of State power. On the same day he was questioned as a suspect. He refused to testify and stated that his prosecution was politically motivated.
On 12 March 2008 the applicant was charged under Articles 225 § 3 and 300 § 1 (usurpation of State power) of the CC. This decision stated that, after the presidential election of 19 February 2008, the applicant joined the group of supporters of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and, having conspired with them to usurp State power in violation of the constitutional order, actively participated in carrying out activities for that purpose, including discrediting the pre-election process and the conduct of the election, instilling distrust towards the results among large segments of the population, creating illusions of public discontent and revolt, thereby organizing and holding unlawful demonstrations aimed at destabilizing the internal political situation.
On 22 June 2009 the Kentron and Nork-Marash District Court of Yerevan found the applicant guilty under Article 225 § 1 of the CC of organizing mass disorder, sentencing him to five years in prison, at the same time applying an amnesty and freeing the applicant.
The court has declared the complaints concerning the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as the applicant’s alleged discrimination on the basis of his political opinion admissible.
The Court holds:
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, the following amounts:
(i) EUR 9,000 (nine thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(ii) EUR 2,600 (two thousand six hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses, to be converted into GBP at the rate applicable on the date of settlement and to be paid into the applicant’s representatives’ bank account in the United Kingdom;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;