Case of European Court of Human Rights, March 26, 2020 (case GASPARI v. ARMENIA)

Defense:ARMENIA
Resolution Date:March 26, 2020
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 6 - Right to a fair trial (Article 6 - Criminal proceedings;Article 6-1 - Fair hearing)

 
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FIRST SECTION

CASE OF GASPARI v. ARMENIA

(Application no. 6822/10)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

26 March 2020

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Gaspari v. Armenia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Aleš Pejchal, President,Tim Eicke,Jovan Ilievski, judges,and Renata Degener, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to:

the application against the Republic of Armenia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by an Armenian national, Mr Vartgez Gaspari (“the applicant”), on 30 December 2009;

the decision to give notice of the complaints concerning the alleged lack of a fair trial and breach of the principle of equality of arms and of the applicant’s right to obtain the attendance of witnesses on his behalf to the Armenian Government (“the Government”) and to declare inadmissible the remainder of the application;

the parties’ observations;

Having deliberated in private on 3 March 2020,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

INTRODUCTION

The case concerns the trial of the applicant who, relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention, alleged that the criminal case against him had been based exclusively on police testimony, the principle of equality of arms had not been respected and that he had not been able to obtain the attendance of witnesses on his behalf on the same conditions as the prosecution.

THE FACTS

  1. The applicant was born in 1957 and lives in Yerevan. The applicant was represented by Mr M. Shushanyan and Mr A. Zakaryan, lawyers practising in Yerevan.

  2. The Government were represented by their Agent, Mr G. Kostanyan, and subsequently by Mr Y. Kirakosyan, Representative of the Republic of Armenia to the European Court of Human Rights.

  3. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

  4. On 19 February 2008 a presidential election was held in Armenia. The applicant, who was a well-known political activist, was an active supporter of the main opposition candidate, Mr Ter‑Petrosyan, and acted as his official election assistant at one of the polling stations.

  5. 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 (also known as Opera Square) 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 where they had also set up a camp. The applicant was an active participant in the rallies.

  6. The applicant alleged that on 1 March 2008, at around 6 a.m., the police arrived at Freedom Square and attacked the several hundred demonstrators who were camping there, violently beating them with rubber batons, destroying the camp and dispersing the assembly. Within a few minutes no demonstrators remained at the square which was then sealed off by the police to prevent any further demonstrations.

  7. According to the official account of events, the aim of the police operation in the morning of 1 March 2008 was to verify the presence of weapons among the demonstrators camping at Freedom Square. The demonstrators reacted aggressively by attacking the police and were then dispersed. After the square was cleared of demonstrators, it was sealed off and the relevant police units carried out an inspection at the scene.

  8. According to the applicant, he had been at home when the assembly at Freedom Square was dispersed. Unaware of this, at around 7.45 a.m. he had headed to the rally, noticing on his way an unusually chaotic situation in the city and witnessing police officers chasing or attacking people in the streets, and forcing some of them into police vans. At around 7.55 a.m. he had arrived at the intersection of Mashtots Avenue and Tumanyan Street near Freedom Square, where there was a greater concentration of people and police officers. He had then been pushed from behind unexpectedly, forced into a police van and taken to Kentron Police Station where he stayed until around 11 a.m., whereupon he was transferred to Arabkir Police Station.

  9. According to a record of the applicant’s “bringing-in”, the applicant was “brought in” to Arabkir Police Station on 1 March 2008 at 8.30 a.m. by two police officers, E.P. and G.H., from Mashtots Avenue “for showing resistance to police officers in the area of the Opera House”. The applicant was subjected to a body search and a relevant record was drawn up. It also appears that a report was addressed in this connection to the chief of police by police officer E.P.

  10. According to the testimony of police officer E.P., dated 1 March 2008, he had participated that morning in the police operation at Freedom Square. E.P. alleged that there had been a standoff between the police and the demonstrators and described how he had taken one of the violent demonstrators, who was later identified as H.G., to Kentron Police Station, whence he had transferred H.G. to Arabkir Police Station. Thereafter he had returned to Freedom Square where he had met police officer G.H. He and G.H. had noticed a group of five or six people walking towards the square, which had been sealed off by then, and tried to stop them. One of those persons had reacted aggressively, disobeyed their orders to leave and started pushing and hitting them. After a short scuffle he and G.H. had grabbed that person and taken him to Kentron Police Station, whence they had...

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