The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today found in favor of Yerevan resident Mushegh Saghatelyan in a suit he brought against the government of Armenia that dates to the post-presidential protests of March 2008.
During the March 1, 2008 protests, according to ECHR documents:
Mr Saghatelyan was formally arrested later in the evening and charged on 3 March with planning the violent overthrow of the Government and publicly insulting officials. On 4 March he was brought before a judge who ordered his detention for two months. His appeals against his detention were dismissed.
Five months later the charges against him were dropped, mostly for lack of evidence. New charges were, however, brought, accusing him of assaulting two police officers and illegally carrying a knife.
He was convicted as charged in October 2008. The courts accepted the police’s account that they had gone to the protest camp to carry out an inspection for weapons following intelligence they had received that demonstrators had been planning to instigate mass disorder. As concerned Mr Saghatelyan in particular, they relied on police testimony that he had attacked two police officers and illegally carried a knife. His appeal was dismissed in December 2008. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, of which he served half before being released in November 2010.
Throughout the proceedings, Mr Saghatelyan alleged before the courts that the case against him had been fabricated, and that he was being prosecuted for his active participation in the demonstrations rather than for committing any criminal offence. He also testified that the police had kicked, punched and hit him with rubber batons when he was apprehended and that the beating had then continued at the police station. The authorities never officially investigated his complaints, considering that he must have been injured during the clashes.
In today’s judgment, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment/investigation); a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention concerning Mr Saghatelyan’s arrest; a violation of Article 5 § 3 (entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial) as concerned the authorities’ failure to properly justify Mr. Saghatelyan’s detention; a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial); and a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association).
The Court held that Armenia was to pay Mr. Saghatelyan 15,600 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage and EUR 5,000 in respect of costs and expenses.