Case of European Court of Human Rights, October 17, 2019 (case HAKOBYAN AND AMIRKHANYAN v. ARMENIA)

Defense:ARMENIA
Resolution Date:October 17, 2019
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 - Protection of property (Article 1 para. 1 of Protocol No. 1 - Peaceful enjoyment of possessions)

 
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FIRST SECTION

CASE OF HAKOBYAN AND AMIRKHANYAN v. ARMENIA

(Application no. 14156/07)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

17 October 2019

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Hakobyan and Amirkhanyan v. Armenia,

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

Ksenija Turković, President,Krzysztof Wojtyczek,Aleš Pejchal,Pere Pastor Vilanova,Pauliine Koskelo,Tim Eicke,Jovan Ilievski, judges,and Abel Campos, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 17 September 2019,

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

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in an application (no. 14156/07) 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 Armenian nationals, Mr Versandik Hakobyan and Ms Heghine Amirkhanyan (“the applicants”), on 27 March 2007.

  2. The applicants were represented by Mr A. Zohrabyan, Ms M. Ghulyan and Mr K. Mezhlumyan, lawyers practising in Yerevan. The Armenian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr G. Kostanyan, and subsequently by Mr Y. Kirakosyan, Representative of the Republic of Armenia before the European Court of Human Rights.

  3. On 3 March 2009 the Court decided to communicate to the Government the part of the application regarding the applicants’ complaints concerning the deprivation of their property and the alleged unfairness of the ensuing civil proceedings under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The remainder of the application was declared inadmissible.

  4. Mr Armen Harutyunyan, the judge elected in respect of Armenia, was unable to sit in the case (Rule 28 of the Rules of Court). Accordingly, the President of the Chamber decided to appoint Pauliine Koskelo to sit as an ad hoc judge (Rule 29 § 2 (b)).

    THE FACTS

    1. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

  5. The applicants Hakobyan and Amirkhanyan (hereafter, the first and the second applicants), who were born in 1950 and 1958 respectively and live in Yerevan, are husband and wife. They jointly owned a plot of land measuring 222 sq. m. and a house measuring 124.52 sq. m. situated in the centre of Yerevan. The applicants bought this property on 23 October 2001 for 84,466,500 Armenian drams (AMD) (approximately 167,250 euros (EUR) at the material time). On the ownership certificate issued in respect of this property on 7 November 2001 the first applicant was indicated as its sole owner.

  6. On 25 November 2000 the Government adopted Decree no. 774 by which it approved a project presented by the Yerevan Mayor’s Office to construct an avenue, the Northern Avenue, in the centre of Yerevan which would link the two main squares, Liberty Square and Republic Square. It appears that the idea of constructing the Northern Avenue dated back to the 1920s when the original town plan of Yerevan was conceived.

  7. On 16 July 2001 the Government adopted Decree no. 645 by which it approved the alienation zone of the real estate situated in the Northern Avenue strip to be taken for State needs, covering a total area of 82,700 sq. m.

  8. On 1 August 2002 the Government adopted Decree no. 1151-N by which it modified its Decree no. 645 of 16 July 2001 and approved the alienation zone of the real estate situated within the administrative boundaries of the Kentron District of Yerevan to be taken for State needs, covering a total area of 345,000 sq. m.

  9. A special body, the “Yerevan Construction and Investment Project Implementation Agency” (“the Agency”), was set up to manage the implementation of the project.

  10. On an unspecified date the Agency requested a licensed valuation organisation, A.E. Ltd, to carry out a valuation of the property in question.

  11. On 16 September 2005 A.E. Ltd prepared a preliminary valuation report without having had access to the premises. The market value of the property was found to be AMD 48,846,000 as at 15 September 2005. According to the covering letter of the manager of A.E. Ltd, this report could serve as a basis for a preliminary offer but not for the final agreement and compensation.

  12. On 27 September 2005 the Agency informed the first applicant that the property in question was situated in the alienation zone and was to be taken for State needs. The first applicant was offered the above sum as compensation, plus a financial incentive in the amount of AMD 14,653,800, if he agreed to sign an agreement within ten days from the date of receipt of the offer, signed such an agreement within a month and handed over the property within the period stipulated by that agreement.

  13. On 10 October 2005 the Agency lodged a claim against the first applicant seeking to oblige him to sign an agreement on taking the property for State needs for compensation in the amount of AMD 48,846,000.

  14. On 28 October 2005 A.E. Ltd, upon a court order, carried out an additional valuation to determine the real market value of the property, having had access to it.

  15. On 10 November 2005 A.E. Ltd prepared a valuation report, according to which the market value of the property was AMD 54,838,000 as at 28 October 2005.

  16. On 16 November 2005 the Agency made a new proposal to the first applicant, offering him the above-mentioned sum plus a financial incentive in the amount of AMD 16,451,400. It appears that the first applicant did not accept this offer.

  17. On 6 December 2005 the Kentron and Nork-Marash District Court of Yerevan granted the Agency’s claim, ordering the first applicant to sign an agreement for a total amount of compensation of AMD 54,838,000 and his eviction together with his family members.

  18. On 21 December 2005 the first applicant lodged an appeal.

  19. On 2 February 2006 the first applicant’s lawyer addressed a letter to the Real Estate Registry, enquiring about the evolution of real estate prices between the last quarter of 2001 and the last quarter of 2005.

  20. By a letter of 7 February 2006 the Real Estate Registry informed the first applicant’s lawyer that, in the relevant period, the average real estate prices per square metre in apartment buildings had increased from AMD 134,000 to AMD 325,400 and in houses measuring up to 250 sq. m. and having an adjacent territory measuring up to 400 sq. m., from AMD 141,200 to AMD 340,700.

  21. On 23 March 2006 a correction was made to the ownership certificate and the second applicant was added as joint owner.

  22. On 18 April 2006 the Constitutional Court found, inter alia, Government Decree no. 1151-N of 1 August 2002 to be unconstitutional.

  23. On 21 June 2006 the first applicant’s lawyers filed written submissions with the Civil Court of Appeal arguing, inter alia, that the market value of the property in question, as established by the valuation reports of A.E. Ltd, was seriously underestimated, given the increase in real estate prices during the previous five years as evidenced by the information provided by the Real Estate Registry. They also submitted that the second applicant was not engaged in the proceedings as a defendant, despite the fact that she was a joint owner of the property in question and the fact that the District Court’s judgment affected her ownership rights.

  24. On 27 June 2006 A.E. Ltd carried out an additional valuation of the applicants’ property upon the Agency’s request.

  25. It appears that, at some point during the proceedings before the Court of Appeal, the second applicant was engaged as a party, receiving a summons to appear at one of the hearings. It further appears that on 3 July 2006 she enquired with the Court of Appeal about her status in the proceedings.

  26. On 4 July 2006 A.E. Ltd prepared a new valuation report, according to which the market value of the property was AMD 60,292,000 as at 27 June 2006 (approximately EUR 114,650 at the material time).

  27. On 6 July 2006 the Agency made a new proposal to both applicants, offering them the above-mentioned sum plus a financial incentive in the amount of AMD 18,087,600.

  28. On the same date the new valuation report was presented to the Civil Court of Appeal.

  29. On 7 July 2006 a law was adopted introducing a number of amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure (“the CCP”).

  30. By a letter of 7 July 2006 the Local Council informed the Court of Appeal that the first applicant had been summoned to appear at the hearing of 10 July 2006 but not the second applicant, due to her absence.

  31. On 10 July 2006 the first applicant’s lawyers filed an application with the Civil Court of Appeal, requesting the court to order an expert opinion to determine, inter alia, the real market value of the property in question, taking into account the increase in prices between 2001 and 2006. It appears that this application was dismissed.

  32. On 14 July 2006 the Civil Court of Appeal granted the Agency’s claim on appeal, ordering the applicants to sign an...

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