Society 14:50 10/07/2020 Armenia

Human rights activist on Firdusi District construction plan: ‘This is a very sad precedent after the revolution’

A study was conducted on the legal processes concerning Yerevan's Firdusi (33rd) District, based on which the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center filed a crime report to the law enforcement agencies last week, Hayk Martirosyan, a legal expert of the center, told a press conference on Friday.

He expressed hope that the preparation of materials on the matter will undergo a proper legal procedure.

"The legal processes concerning the 33rd District started in 2006-2007. In 2008 by the decisions of the government it was taken for state needs, but the project failed to be implemented. At that time many citizens complained that the sales project violated their property rights,” he said.

“After all this, in March 2018, the area was again taken for state needs, acquired by a company founded by Eduard Melikyan, the founder of those organizations involved in previous failed projects. The government refuses to publish the financial guarantees that the companies have provided for the implementation of the project. Based on these processes, the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center has reported a crime about abuses by officials in the implementation of relevant transactions.

“In particular, the State Committee for Urban Development, which was to announce tenders for the redevelopment of the area with the best urban development solutions, has taken no action in this regard; the government has not reacted to the official negligence of the relevant organization in any way. Taking note of these processes, today the government should have make every effort to make the deals transparent and exclude the involvement of the organizations previously caught in corruption schemes, but we are witnessing the opposite process,” Martirosyan stated.

Human rights activist Nina Karapetyants said she does not have high expectations from the law enforcement agencies. She deplored the attitude of the authorities on the historical habitat, in particular the remarks that "it’s of no cultural value and there are only sheds there.”

"I have heard this statement since the beginning of North Avenue [construction]. What do they compare it to when they claim that, for example, the 100-year-old historical buildings in Yerevan are sheds? If they compare it to the houses of the newly-emerged oligarchs, yes, these are sarays, because these houses do not have gilded toilets or gilded door handles,” said the human rights activist.

Tigran Amiryan, the co-author of the “Firdus: The Memory of a Place” book, its editor-in-chief and a member of an initiative for the protection of the district, said that he has studied the Firdus Destruct for many years, has worked with its residents and various specialists to understand the identity and history of the district. According to him, the district has not only self-made buildings, but also buildings designed by architects, as well as a building of constructivist architecture, which has never received any care.

Executive Director of the Human Rights Research Center, human rights activist Anahit Simonyan said that it is not a matter of one district, but rather a state policy and attitude.

"If the state and state bodies are guided by the protection of the builder’s interests in decision making, especially a builder with whom there are a number of problems, including suspicions of corruption risks, irregularities in the process, this cannot be the policy line offered by the Armenian government,” she said.

In Simonyan’s words, the state should pursue an urban development policy stemming from the right to adequate housing, sufficient social conditions and the right to social protection, as well as protection of cultural rights. She emphasized that urban development is not a business, it is a very important sphere of state policy concerning a number of human rights.

She said they have submitted a letter to lawmakers and the National Assembly committees, as each committee has something to do with the issue.

"I call on the government to restore the legality and human-centered approach of this process, because it has to stop. This is a very sad precedent after the [spring 2018] revolution,” she stressed.

Art worker, Firdusi resident Ara Shahumyan said that everyone took part in the velvet revolution, hoping to build a rule of law country.

"It is simplly absurd for the state to disturb so many people for 200 million drams, especially after the velvet revolution, and keep the wave of injustice high," he stressed. 

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