Armenia: Former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan awaits human rights court judgement

Next week, a former president of Armenia will find out if Strasbourg judges back his human rights complaint against national authorities.

A European Court of Human Rights judgement in the case Ter-Petrosyan v. Armenia (no. 36469/08) will be announced on Thursday 25 April.

The applicant, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, is an Armenian national who was born in 1945 and lives in Yerevan. He was the President of Armenia between 1991 and 1998.

The case concerns his complaint about the interference with his freedom of assembly, the lack of an effective remedy and his alleged placement under house arrest following the dispersal of a protest rally in March 2008.

In February 2008, Ter-Petrosyan ran in a presidential election as the main opposition candidate.

From 20 February onwards, protests about alleged election irregularities broke out, led by Mr Ter-Petrosyan, and took place in particular on Freedom Square in central Yerevan. The rallies attracted at times tens of thousands people.

The applicant alleges that on the morning of 1 March 2008 the police arrived at Freedom Square, encircled the demonstrators and, without any prior warning, began to attack them and violently beat them.

The protesters were quickly pushed out of the square and Mr Ter-Petrosyan was also ordered to leave but he refused. He was then forced into a car and taken to his house, which he was not allowed to leave.

The roads to his house were blocked by the police and all vehicles were checked. No one could go in or out of his dwelling without the permission of the special forces.

The rallies continued throughout the city until late at night, involving clashes between protesters and law-enforcement officers and resulting in 10 deaths, many injured and a state of emergency being declared by the President of Armenia.

The government contests these allegations. In particular, it states that the police forces were attacked by the demonstrators and that Ter-Petrosyan got into a police car voluntarily.

He was then taken to his home and did not express any wish to go elsewhere. Police officers were stationed near his home as part of security measures for all people under State protection.

The police forces neither prohibited anyone from entering the house nor prevented Ter-Petrosyan from leaving.

He expressed the wish at one point to leave the house but did not go anywhere when he was told the security forces would not accompany him.

On 4 March 2008, Ter-Petrosyan’s legal representative filed a request with the Constitutional Court, submitting that the applicant was under de facto house arrest. The applicant alleges that he was allowed to attend a hearing at the court on 5 March 2008 for one hour but that otherwise his house arrest lasted without interruption until 20 March 2008.

The government rejects the applicant’s submissions, in particular it states that after the hearing he asked to be taken home and did not want to leave his house until the state of emergency was lifted on 20 March 2008.

In March 2008, the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by Mr Ter-Petrosyan against the result of the presidential election.

Relying on Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security), Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement), Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Ter-Petrosyan complains that he was removed forcibly from Freedom Square, while peacefully assembling, and then placed under house arrest on 1 March 2008 and that he did not have at his disposal an effective remedy in respect of this complaint.

Relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), he complains that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his political opinion.

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