The Right to Property in Armenia

David Hunanyan, partner in AM law firm, PhD in Law, Attorney

- Is the property right guaranteed to the citizens of Armenia in the legislation of Armenia? What norms of national and international law guarantee the right to property for Armenian citizens?

In Armenia, the right to property is guaranteed at the constitutional level. In particular, according to Part 1 of Article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia: “1. All forms of ownership shall be recognized and equally protected in the Republic of Armenia.”

Considering the geographical features of Armenia, Part 2 of Article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia highlights objects that cannot be privately owned: “2. Subsoil and water resources shall fall under the exclusive ownership of the state.”

Besides, Part 6 of Article 60 of the Constitution indicates the objects that cannot belong to foreign citizens: “6. Foreign citizens and stateless persons shall not enjoy the right of ownership over land, except for the cases prescribed by the law.”

Article 60 of the Constitution of RA provides for the basic legal norms regarding the right to property, which are developed in the legislative acts of Armenia. In particular, the content of the right of ownership is indicated: possession, use and disposal of the property. The right of inheritance is guaranteed. It also provides that the right to property may be limited only by law in order to protect the public interest or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. As for deprivation of property rights, it is indicated that this is possible only in cases established by the law - in a court of law. It should be noted that such cases as deprivation of property rights are provided for in the Criminal Code of Armenia when the court imposes a punishment for a committed crime. Besides, the option of alienation of property rights in order to ensure prevalent public interest is not excluded. In particular, it is indicated that this is done in exceptional cases and in accordance with the procedure established by the law: only with the provision of equivalent compensation in advance. Article 60 also provides for the legal protection of intellectual property.

It should be noted that an important role is also played by legal regulations at the legislative level. The laws and by-laws of Armenia comprehensively and fully regulate this sphere of social relations.

After the Velvet Revolution in April 2018 the matter of property seizures and confiscations by former corrupt officials is sometimes raised in the Armenian press and in the speeches of public figures. Given the constitutional provisions, confiscation of property is possible only by a court decision, if it is prescribed by the law. In other words, the legal way of confiscating property is in the form of an addition of a relevant article made to the Armenian Criminal Code that provides for punishment in the form of confiscation for specific crimes.
With regard to international law, Armenia has signed all fundamental international human rights treaties, which provide for and guarantee the right to property (European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc.).

- Who violates the rights of property rights of RA citizens and how frequently?

The right to property is absolute by its nature. This means that everyone, including the state, is obliged to respect the rights of the person who is the owner of the given property. This in turn means that disputes may arise between the owner and other legal entities: a state body, a local government body, a legal entity, and a natural person.

After the well-known events that took place in the 2000s, related to the construction of the Northern Avenue in Yerevan, there have been no other similar loud cases of violation of citizens’ rights to property and real estate. Disputes also took place in the village of Teghut, which were associated with the discovery of minerals in the vicinity. In both cases, it was about the alienation of the right of ownership of land in order to ensure the prevalent public interest with prior and equal compensation. And complaints mainly related to the amount of compensation.

In general, disputes over the protection of property rights are present between individuals. In this case, all conflicts are resolved in court. In Armenia, the judicial system consists of three instances: the court of first instance, the Appeal Court and the Cassation Court. The Court of Cassation is the highest instance, and the decisions of this court are not subject to appeal. If a person is dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Cassation, s/he is entitled to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by filing a lawsuit against the Republic of Armenia. It should also be noted that the Court of Cassation adopted many decisions in the field of protection of property rights, which have the power of precedent for all courts of the country.

- Is there any statistics on the violations of citizens’ rights to property?

No special statistics on the violations of property rights is kept by government agencies. An overall impression can be made by examining the official website of the judicial sector: In particular, on the website you can find court cases classified by the content of court decisions. More comprehensive information on the level of the development of the legal system for the protection of property rights can be obtained by examining the judicial precedents of the Court of Cassation of Armenia. The fact is that the Court of Cassation has the right to comment on the legal norms that are provided for in a particular regulatory act of the country. That is, the Court of Cassation does not create new legal norms (as is the case in Common Law countries, for example, in the USA), but explains the meaning of this norm, if there is a need for it. As a rule, such a need often arises, which is quite a normal phenomenon. It is also necessary to say that the Cassation Court has made quite a large number of decisions in this sphere.

- How effective is the judicial system in protecting the property rights of citizens?

It is quite complex question to ask about the effectiveness of a country’s judicial system, and it is impossible to answer it unequivocally. But the number and content of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights can serve as an indicator. To date, the ECHR has made approximately more than 20 decisions against Armenia, regarding violations of property rights. Of these, the overwhelming majority is associated with the aforementioned alienation of the right to property for public domain.

This material was prepared in the framework of ”Public Dialogues for Communication between Armenian and Azerbaijani Specialists” project, supported by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (a project by the G. Marshall Fund). Opinions expressed in the material do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.


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