Armenia: Court backs killer’s human rights challenge

A convicted killer today won the backing of human rights judges in his complaint against Armenia.

Spartak Manucharyan, who is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence for murder, brought the case following his conviction. He said this was based on the pre-trial statement of a key prosecution witness, who had not attended his trial and whom he had had no opportunity to examine at any stage of the proceedings against him.

European Court of Human Rights judges accepted his arguments. They declared a violation of Article 6 § 1 read in conjunction with Article 6 § 3 (d). As Just satisfaction, they awarded him 2,400 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage).

Manucharyan v. Armenia (application no. 35688/11)

The applicant, Spartak Manucharyan, is an Armenian national who was born in 1976 and is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence for murder.

On 1 July 2009, Manucharyan presented himself to the police, surrendering a gun and confessing to the murder of a man in the town of Alaverdi. The same day the victim’s girlfriend was questioned by the police, and stated that she had witnessed Manucharyan, her neighbour, open fire on her boyfriend’s car, killing him. Manucharyan was charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms.

However, when questioned on 3 July 2009, Manucharyan denied the charges and refused to testify. At additional questioning in March 2010 he stated that he had confessed to the murder to cover up for his brother, who in the meantime had been killed.

The case was referred to the Lori Regional Court for trial in April 2010. During the ensuing judicial proceedings, the Regional Court had to reschedule a number of hearings on the case in an attempt to secure the presence of the victim’s girlfriend and sought police assistance to that end.

However, the police repeatedly failed to enforce the court’s orders to compel the victim’s girlfriend to attend the trial as they could not locate her; she was believed to have left the country.

The Regional Court eventually examined the case in her absence and found Manucharyan guilty as charged in November 2010. The court relied, in particular, on the following evidence: witness statements by the victim’s girlfriend and her family as well as by a friend of Manucharyan’s father, whom he had cited to confirm his alibi for the night of the murder, and forensic evidence of gunshot residue on the clothes worn by Manucharyan on the day of the murder.

Manucharyan’s conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in January 2011, which relied on the same body of evidence as the Regional Court. The Court of Appeal did not address Manucharyan’s request to have the pre-trial statement of the victim’s girlfriend declared inadmissible as she had not been examined in court.

The Court of Cassation declared Manucharyan’s appeal on points of law inadmissible for lack of merit in April 2011.

Relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) (right to a fair trial and right to obtain attendance and examination of witnesses) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Manucharyan alleged that he had been deprived of the opportunity to examine the sole eyewitness in his case and whose testimony had played a decisive role in his conviction.

Violation of Article 6 § 1 read in conjunction with Article 6 § 3 (d)
Just satisfaction: 2,400 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage)

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