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On recovery of moral damages in the Republic of Armenia

Introduction of instances of moral damage and compensation to the legislation of the Republic of Armenia

The Republic of Armenia, in the year 2015, amended the legislation related to compensation for moral (intangible) damage. The first of these changes occurred in 2010 and second in 2014, however, changes made at the end of 2015 provide new opportunities for more detailed and thorough legal regulations, related to the non-material moral damage.

Currently, the Republic of Armenia provides compensation for moral damages to the honor, dignity and business reputation, violation of the basic human rights and freedoms, as well as, non-material damage caused as a result of misuse of administrative proceedings.

Article 162 of the RA Civil Code provides a definition of the concept of intangible goods. These are defined as; life and health, personal dignity, personal integrity, honor and good name, goodwill, privacy, privacy of personal and family life, the right to free movement, choice of residence and place of residence, the right to a name, the right of authorship, and other non-property rights, other intangible benefits belonging to a citizen, by right of birth, or by law. These rights are further defined as inalienable and non-transferable. In cases and in the manner prescribed by law, moral rights and other intangible benefits that belonged to a deceased person may be exercised and protected by other persons, including the heirs, or the inheritor of copyright and/or commercial brand.

For the purpose of the protection of these rights in practice, the RA Civil Code introduced article 162.1, which adopted the concept of “non-pecuniary, non-material, intangible moral damage” and compensation(s) based therein. Non-pecuniary damage is defined as the physical and/or spiritual suffering of the person arising as a result of decisions, actions, or inactions that encroached on the rights belonging to that person from birth, or by virtue of the law of tangible or intangible benefits, or violating his/her personal property, or non-property rights.

Non-pecuniary, non-material, intangible moral damage(s) caused as a result of violations of fundamental rights of the person and/or unfair judgment

A person has the right to demand compensation(s) for moral damage(s), if the criminal prosecution body or the court confirmed, that the public authority and/or local authority, as well as, their officials, because of their actions, omissions, or decisions violated the following fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Convention on ” the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms “:

  1. The right to life;
  2. The right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or punishment;
  3. The right to personal liberty and security;
  4. The right to a fair trial;
  5. The right to respect for private and family life, as well as the inviolability of the place of residence;
  6. The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and free expression of opinion;
  7. Freedom of assembly and association;
  8. Effective remedies of legal protection;
  9. The right to ownership.

Legislative changes provide the right for those who are unjustly sentenced, to demand compensation for moral damages. In this case, the non-pecuniary damage shall be compensated regardless of reimbursable property damage and the presence of an actual guilt, and thus this shall be compensated from the state budget of the Republic of Armenia or the municipal budget.  This depends on which organ or official person caused the damage.

The amount of compensation, in this case, is the following:

  • 3.000.000 AMD for claims arising from the rights referred to in paragraphs 1-2, as well as, the requirements for an unfair condemnation;
  • 2.000.000 AMD for violation of the rights mentioned in paragraphs 3-9;
  • In exceptional cases, the amount of compensation for moral damages may exceed the above-quoted sums, if as a result of caused damage, there were/are very serious consequences.

The demand for non-pecuniary damages, together with the demand to confirm the violation of fundamental rights, may be filed in court within one year from the date when the person became aware of the violation, or for six months from the date of entry into legal force of the judicial act, confirming the violation of fundamental rights. In case of confirmed violations from the criminal prosecution authority, a claim for moral damages may be filed no earlier than two months and no later than one year from the moment when the party became aware of said damages.

The law also establishes that the State and local governments have the right to seek recovery of sums paid from the State budget, from the legal persons whose acts or omissions led to the infliction of harm (regression). However, recovery of compensation from a legal person (regression) is subject to proving the actual guilt of that person in causing harm.

On compensation(s) for the damage(s) caused to the honor, dignity, or business reputation of the legal person, in the Republic of Armenia

Should any person’s honor, dignity, or business reputation be tainted by an insult, or slander, he/she may appeal to the courts and file a suit against the person who caused him/her to be/feel insulted and slandered.

Insult and slander are defined as, any public expression or outburst that is expressed through words, images, sounds, signs, or any other visible means, with the aim of discrediting the honor, dignity and business reputation of the person on the receiving end. The expression or outburst is not considered an insult if it is based on solid facts (except for natural defects, IE: mental deficiency), or due to the higher public interest.

Slander is defined as a public presentation of facts, or manufacture of evidence about a person that does not correspond to reality defames his/her honor, dignity and/or business reputation. The burden of proof of the actual circumstances of the libel carries with the defendant. The plaintiff is obliged to prove the existence of the circumstances by providing the corresponding evidence.

Note example of cases below, where expression of facts is not considered slander:

  • The expressions have been in pre-trial or trial proceedings and concerned the circumstances of the case;
  • It is due to the higher public interest and the public entity provides evidence to prove that they took reasonable steps to ascertain their reliability and validity and that they provided this dispassionately and conscientiously;
  • The expression arises from a public speech, or response of the person on libel hearing, or his/her representative, or from the presented documents.

Verbatim and/or conscientious reproduction of information, dissemination of this information in person or via an agency, as well as, information contained in a public speech of another person, official documents, other media, or any work of authorship does not constitute for the person providing the said information, to be responsible for defamation, slander and/or insult, provided that the references were made to the original source of information (author).

At the request of the plaintiff, the court may make a decision on the application of the following sanctions for insult/slander and/or defamation:

  • Public apology;
  • Total or partial publication of the court decision in the media, if the insult was spread by a person engaged in information and/or media activities;
  • The payment of monetary compensation in the amount of up to 1,000,000 AMD.

In the case of slander, a person may additionally request the court to:

  • Oblige the defendant to bring a public refutation of the evidence in the media and/or the publication of the plaintiff’s response in the media, at defendant’s expense;
  • Obligation to pay compensation of up to 2,000,000 AMD.

In the Republic of Armenia, a person whose rights have been violated is deprived of the opportunity to use legal protection, if before going to court a demand to publish a response has been satisfied by the other party and can be proven. Property damage caused as a result of insults or defamation are not included within the determination by the court above the amount defined as compensation. However, when defending the honor and dignity of the person, the same person at the same time has the right to demand compensation for defamation as a result of injury or property damage, including, reasonable legal costs, recovery of expenses incurred by him/her for the restoration of violated rights.

The suit in defense of honor, dignity and business reputation can be filed with the court within one month from the date when the person became aware of the insult, slander or defamation, but remain within less than six months from the moment of insult, slander or defamation.