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Discussion of issues of access to justice within the framework of the Aarhus Convention

On June 18, on the initiative of the “Center of Economic and Legal Analysis” NGO a seminar-discussion was held in the Faculty of Law of the YSU. The goal was the discussion of the issues on access to justice within the framework of the Aarhus Convention.
Oliver McCoy, Economic and Environmental Programme Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan welcomed the participants, who is by the way has accomplished his mission to Armenia. The latter noted that the complete implementation of the Aarhus Convention remains the priority for the OSCE 57 member states, as the principles of the Aarhus Convention are the basis for all other
liabilities undertaken by them.
According to him the Convention gives that legal system, which in the context of democracy offers the form of cooperation between the public and government. And since all the parties, including donor organizations have a role in supporting the implementation of the Convention.

“Our job is to give life to the acts of Helsinki, which is possible only through legal instruments. Therefore our belief is that the most important is the procedural right. We pay special attention to it, because access to information, public participation and access to justice stems from the procedural right, the need of which is clearly stated by the each point of the Aarhus Convention.”

Mr. McCoy has also highlighted the OSCE’s support to the Aarhus Centers network as a unique community-level actor in not only providing information, but also supporting to public participation. “But if there is no effective justice system this work will not be effective,”- he added.

Gevorg Danielyan, Doctor of Law, Professor referring to the practical problems of illegitimate administration counteraction carrying out through environmental issues and methods of their solutions, at first highlighted raising the issues in correct way at the administrative bodies and applying to the court processes.

For instance in making requests or applying to administrative authorities should be referred to the relevant statutory provisions, in order it to make clear for the administrative body what would be the next steps of requesters. He mentioned that there are 3 decisions of the Constitutional Court, which are related to the administrative body dealing with records management, accordingly, if the body does not respond to the inquiry in fact, it can be considered as an administrative act and be challenged in the court. According to him, often the NGOs ask the administrative body certain information that the latter was obliged to publish for everyone. In this sense, civil society organizations need for additional education or training.

Levon Galstyan, environmentalist-activist noted that the administrative body under the pretext of confidentiality has repeatedly refused to provide any information, such as copies of permits for water use or information on the quantity of already processed ors.

Professor Danielyan responded that the administrative acts cannot be considered confidential, as regards the quantity of ore processed, it can be considered a trade secret, but even trade secrets of public important, are subject to disclosure under the law of the Freedom of Information of the RA. As for the rejection of a lawsuit by the administrative court under the circumstance of not considering an administrative act than in accordance with the lawyers’ advice, it will be possible to challenge such action or inaction of the administrative body.

The prospect of implementation class action lawsuits in the context of the environmental protection rights was presented by Anahit Manasyan and Edgar Shatiryan.

In accordance with their presentations the class actions are used at the European court system less than in the Anglo-Saxon legal system. However, there is a precedent and experience. The class actions enable to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the group via common claim.

According to Mr. Shatiryan, in Australia, for example, criterion is the minimum number of members in the group, against another defendant the lawsuit may be filed by a group of including 7 people. In such cases, the requirements must be based on the same or other related matters. Perhaps these issues are alien to our reality, but the speakers said it was a matter of time and sooner or later legislative regulations will be eligible as well in our country.

This extremely interesting and useful workshop was attended by lectures of the YSU, independent experts, and representatives of the Center for Sustainable Development of the YSU, CSOs and civil initiatives, coordinators of Yerevan, Stepanavan and Yeghvard Aarhus centers.

Mary Chakryan
Armenain Aarhus Centers Press Officer
Translated by Anush Beybutyan