Teghut

On June 8, 2009, Transparency International, Ecodar, and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office NGO’s filed a lawsuit at the Administrative Court of Armenia demanding the annulment of a number of documents that lay at the basis of mining permit issued by the Armenian government for the exploitation of the Teghut mine. This was the first time that the highly defective and solely formal nature of the procedure of awarding mining permits were legally evaluated. One of the key documents that was being disputed was the expert conclusion of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was at the basis of the mining permit. Using the same baseline data presented in the mining project an alternative examination was conducted by highly qualified specialists, which came to prove the unprofessional state of the examination conducted by the authorities. Public experts have effectively proved that the economic damages due to the elimination of environmental components have been significantly reduced thus making the mining project look economically profitable. Assessment of economic benefits and losses of mining is an issue that is currently a primary topic during the evaluation of the justification for exploiting natural resources.

The legal proceedings for Teghut had some extraordinary developments. The court has ultimately decided that none of the non-governmental organizations had appropriate legal standing as plaintiffs for this case. Therefore, the case was not even heard properly. International organizations have adopted two decision regarding the violation of the right to access to justice for environmental civil society organizations (such as Ecodar) in the frameworks of the Aarhus Convention. However, this right has not been ensured neither on the legislative level nor on the level of legal practice to date. The Teghut case offers a well-documented for human rights defenders and case-law researchers on how the Court of Cassation of Armenia can adopt two completely opposing positions on the same case, while at the same time incorrectly interpreting the legal position of the Constitutional Court of Armenia on the right to access to justice for public associations.

Moreover, having no legal authority to clarify its own decisions, the Constitutional Court of Armenia found a legal mechanism for doing so through the presentation of an Annual Report on its activities. In that report, the Constitutional Court plainly and in very specific legal terms has pointed out that the Court of Cassation has interpreted the position of the Constitutional Court incorrectly. Thus, the Teghut trial is of very significant strategic importance in terms of ensuring the legal standing of non-governmental organizations as well as for the assessment of the maturity of Armenia’s legal system in general.