ECHR Rules in Favor of Armenian Man Convicted in Uranium Smuggling Case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled yesterday on the case of Dadayan v. Armenia. In 2010, Armenian citizen Garik Dadayan was accused of aiding and abetting the smuggling of enriched uranium from Armenia into Georgia. The two smugglers were prosecuted and convicted in Georgia, but Dadayan was prosecuted and convicted in Armenia, primarily on the basis of the smugglers’ witness statements to the Georgian authorities.

On Thursday, the court unanimously ruled in Dadayan’s favor, saying there had been a violation of his right to a fair trial and right to obtain attendance and examination of witnesses) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, the court determined that Dadayan’s rights were substantially violated because the trial court in Armenia never heard the smugglers’ testimonies in person, as Georgian authorities refused to allow them to be transferred to Armenia while the charges against them were still pending.

In March 2010, Georgian authorities arrested two men for attempting to sell 15g of enriched uranium that had recently been transported from Armenia by train. The smugglers testified that they had paid Dadayan to travel from Russia to Armenia and sell them the radioactive material at the Yerevan Railway Station

During his trial, Dadayan requested that the smugglers be brought for questioning before the Armenian court prosecuting him, but Georgian authorities refused. In May 2011, Dadayan was found guily and sentenced to seven years in jail. The evidence in both the smugglers’ and Dadayan’s trials was the smugglers’ witness statements, forensic examinations confirming that the smuggled substance contained enriched uranium, records of telephone calls between Dadayan and one of the smugglers, and exit and entry stamps in Dadayan’s passport confirming that he had come to Yerevan from Moscow when the smugglers said he did.

Although he appealed the case, arguing that he had not been allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, The Court of Appeals upheld Dadayan’s conviction, without addressing his complaint.

The ECHR noted that one of the requirements of a fair trial was the possibility for the accused to confront witnesses in the presence of the judge who ultimately would decide the case, as a judge’s observations on the demeanor and credibility of a witness could have consequences for the accused. There was no good reason for the trial court to admit the statements of those absent witnesses as evidence without them being examined in court. Indeed, the trial court did not make any further attempts to try to find out whether it would be possible to transfer the two witnesses to Armenia if and when their convictions became final. Nor had any other means of examining them been contemplated, for example via video link.

The EHCR therefore concluded that, overall, Dadayan had not had a fair trial, and ordered Armenia to pay Mr. Dadayan EUR 2,400 for non-pecuniary damages and EUR 1,000 in respect of costs and expenses.


By Samantha Guthrie
Source: European Court of Human Rights

07 September 2018 17:11