IS ANYBODY LISTENING?: OMBUDSWOMAN RELEASES SPECIAL REPORT ON PROPERTY VIOLATIONS
By Vahan Ishkhanyan
Less than six months after she released her annual report, Armenia's Ombudswoman Larisa Alaverdyan, has released a special report, to address the property disputes that are going on in central Yerevan.
(Hundreds of residents have been displaced by urban development projects that many say are violations of human rights and are a misuse of the Armenian Constitution's provision for `the welfare of the state'. See links below for previous ArmeniaNow reports.)
The new report entitled `About Ownership, Fair Trial and Violations of the Rights to Court Protection' is a follow-up to violations raised in the initial report which, the Ombudswoman says (according to law) should have been corrected, but were not.
The 24-page, nine-chapter report says it was created because: `Taking into consideration the fact that the violations of the mentioned right of citizens, the rights to fair trial and court protection connected with it not only failed to be removed and no means have been undertaken directed at their removal, but these violations are continuing, a need has arisen to address this issue once again through this special report addressed to the authorities and the public.'
The report (www.ombuds.am) presents in detail all the violations of the law and human rights that were committed during the construction projects in city center. In 2004, the Ombudswoman received 176 complaints, and 239 only during the six months of 2005. The report may serve as a useful document in the hands of lawyers defending people's right to have property and an apartment. Basing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Armenian Constitution, civil, land, apartment legislations and on the Constitutional Court, the Ombudswoman at full length presents how citizens' rights were violated.
The critics of the previous report said that it had failed to ground many of the registered violations with examples. A whole chapter in the special report deals with examples of violations of the right to court protection and fair trial wherein court rulings are subjected to a detailed analysis.
The Ombudswoman's special report uses studies and analyses to show that people's property was alienated without a separate corresponding law for each owner, which is required by the Constitution and the decision of February 27, 1998 of the Constitutional Court. By government decisions that contradict the country's Basic Law owners are deprived of the right to manage their property. They do not get a commensurate compensation, besides the compensations offered are combined with obligations not envisaged by the law. The right of an individual and a family to have an apartment is violated, the state not only fails to assist in the realization of the right of a family to improve their housing conditions, which is required by the Constitution, but on the contrary deprives them of their apartment.
The report states that with the violation of the right of universal equality before the law, an unfair redistribution of property is taking place, with separate individuals becoming owners of the central parts of Yerevan at incomparably low prices and the socially vulnerable stratum is driven out towards the city outskirts. The means by which residents are forced from their property (i.e., buildings destroyed even while court appeals are being made) is, the report says, a violation of human rights.
It is also stated that in the studied cases courts do not defend and do not reinstate citizens in their rights. The right of citizens to get court protection through a fair trial is violated.
In the report's conclusion, the Ombudswoman states that her special report is an attempt to invite once again the attention of all chains of the Republic of Armenia authorities to the recognition of human rights.
Parliament Leaders Refuse To Extend Rights Defender's Tenure
By Astghik Bedevian
The leadership of the Armenian parliament effectively refused on Tuesday to delay the impending resignation of the state human rights ombudsperson, Larisa Alaverdian, until the election of her successor in accordance with the country's newly amended constitution.
One of the amendments enacted by the Armenian authorities, stipulates that the official in charge of human rights protection, appointed by the president until now, will be chosen by the National Assembly. Under Armenia's law on the ombudsperson, Alaverdian has to resign on January 5, one month after the amendment's entry into force. But it does not set any time frames for the election of the new human rights defender.
In an open letter to parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian released on Monday, Alaverdian said she should therefore be allowed to continue to perform her duties in the interim. She warned that failure to keep her in office would paralyze the Ombudsperson's Office as `the constitution and the law recognize only the defender, while his/her staff ... can not perform any functions independently.'
The parliament's press office told RFE/RL that Baghdasarian has no intention to respond to the letter, suggesting that he finds the outgoing ombudsperson's demands unacceptable. The leader of the parliament's largest pro-government faction, Galust Sahakian, agreed with the speaker's position. Sahakian indicated that the parliament will promptly elect Alaverdian's replacement when it ends its winter recess on February 4.
`The [ombudsperson's] staff will continue to work. One month is not a lot of time,' he said.
Alaverdian who was appointed as ombudsperson by President Robert Kocharian nearly two years ago, is not seen as one of the top candidatesfor the job. She has repeatedly lambasted the Armenian authorities' human rights record and in particular their 2004 crackdown on the opposition. Kocharian reportedly exposed his annoyance with her activities during a cabinet meeting earlier this year.