Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Armenian Government Violates the Rights of Their Citizens

The Needs of the State Equal the Interests of Gagik Tsarukyan

[January 9, 2006]

In accordance with rulings at all three levels of the Armenian court system, Rafik Chichakyan must vacate Apartment #3 at 5/1 Abovyan Street. His eviction was initiated by the government; the subsequent court rulings have “legalized” the expulsion of a resident from his own home.

Under the pretext of “the needs of the state”, the government, in Decision # 1047 of July 8, 2004, allocated to Multi Group, Ltd. the right to build on the territory adjacent to 5 Abovyan Street in the center of Yerevan without conducting a public tender. Multi Group is owned by Member of Parliament Gagik Tsarukyan. Tsarukyan received the 1,430 square meters of land from the government through direct negotiations, although according to existing laws the land should have been to be put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder.

Why is the government so well disposed towards Gagik Tsarukyan? Tsarukyan is currently putting up a multi-story apartment building a short distance away from the building in question. (see photo). According to our information, he has decided to erect an apartment building at 5 Abovyan Street as well.

What does “the needs of the state” mean? In the case of 5 Abovyan Street it means giving Gagik Tsarukyan the opportunity to profit at the expense of ordinary citizens of Armenia. This governmental decision is a classic example of corruption (as are all land allocations in the city center). We recommend that Bagrat Yesayan, the president's advisor on anti-corruption initiatives, who looks for but is unable to find specific evidence of corruption get hold of these decisions by the government and present them in one of his many publicized meetings. Unless he does, his work and the work of the Anti-Corruption Council will remain meaningless, and all money spent of seminars, round-tables, workshops and business trips abroad will be wasted.

Rafik Chichakyan has lived at 5/1 Abovyan Street for 42 years, since 1963. In the beginning, he occupied a space measuring 19.6 square meters. After his son and daughter were born Chichakyan enlarged his living space by constructing two additional floors. In the 1970s they turned the first floor into a store, which has provided the family with its daily bread until now. Chichakyan, now a second-degree invalid, has kept up on all taxes. For ten years now, the family's living space has been 76 square meters. “We have repeatedly sent letters to legalize our annexes—the laws enable us to do so—but they haven't done it. And this year they showed us a court order alleging that this is a development area and we have to vacate the house,” Rafik's wife, Gohar Manukyan, explained.

In 2002 their son, Yeghishe Chichakyan, got married and had a child. Yeghishe's wife and son are also registered residents at this address. “People from the Project Implementation Office ask me, ‘Why didn't your son get married earlier?' and I say: ‘He was young, how could he get married? Was he supposed to get married when he was ten?' They say: ‘You married him off on purpose'. If it had been on purpose, I would have brought my relatives and registered them here. Why should I marry off my son?' There weren't even any papers related to our house in the state cadastre. It's a good thing I kept them. They don't leave any papers; they destroy them,” Gohar continued.

“These court proceedings are just a theatrical performance that they stage. We know that, but there's nothing we can do about it. The Court of Appeal heard us out and said, ‘You are right, but this is the president's decision. The case has to be ruled in favor of the Office of Implementation of Projects on Investments and Development of Yerevan. Every one knows that all this is illegal,” Rafik added.

“You don't know who to turn to. We both live and work here; we don't know what's going to happen to us. We sent letters to Gagik Tsarukyan to the Parliament and we even delivered one to his house in Arinj, but there was no response,” Gohar said.

In return for ousting a family of six from their home the Office of Implementation of Projects has decided to pay the Chichakyans $10,870 and an equal amount as an incentive. If you subtract the value added tax, as stipulated by law, this comes to about $19,000. Thus this family of six is expected to purchase an apartment in Yerevan for $19,000, which is virtually impossible. “We tell them, Don't give us money, give us an apartment that will accommodate six people. Let them find it and give it to us and then we'll vacate this house,” Gohar continued.

Rafik Chichakyan refused to accept the proposed terms and went to court instead. As a result, he was deprived of the incentive pay, which means the family is now to receive $9,500, the figure that has now been approved in court rulings.

“The assertions by the plaintiff that the land their house occupies is being seized for ‘the needs of the state' has not been substantiated during the court hearings, even though this fact, by itself, is not grounds for violating sanctity of a person's home,'” maintained Artur Grigoryan, who has represented Chichakyan in court.

The Chichakyans home was appraised by Artin Enterprise, Ltd., the company that appraises all the territories to be developed in the city center. “Artin Enterprise cannot be considered an independent appraiser since it is a contractor of the Office of Implementation of Projects on Investments and Development of Yerevan,” Grigoryan said. The annual report of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia for 2004 notes in relation to this case: “The appraisement of the immovable property being alienated was carried out by Artin Enterprise, Ltd. to which the Office of Implementation of Projects, by signing a contract, has given a monopoly on appraising and made a party interested in establishing the lowest possible value.” Today, there are no agencies that appraise immovable property in the areas under development at the request of the people who live there. They have been strictly prohibited from providing such services. Moreover, several organizations that had done such work before and whose conclusions contradicted the evaluation of Artin Enterprise, Ltd. (stating a higher value) were deprived of their licenses, subjected to financial inspections, prosecuted. That, however, is another story, one we will cover in the future.

“During the so called ‘development projects cases' the courts do not act as entities administering justice. They just do one thing – they legalize the claims laid by the Office of Implementation of Projects,” Artur Grigoryan said. “Citizens are completely deprived of their right to judicial protection.”

Grigoryan tried to find out in court what “the needs of the state” meant, and how long the interests of Multi Group had coincided with those of the state. Every one in Armenia knows that Multi Group owner Gagik Tsarukyan is backed by president Robert Kocharyan. And that is more than enough for him to appear on the list of the state's needs.

As for Rafik Chichakyan, he has decided to defend his rights in Strasbourg, in the European Court of Human Rights.
Edik Baghdasaryan

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