Freedom of Information
Strategic litigation is one of the FOICA’s main tools as a most important guarantee for protecting the access to information right. FOI court cases positively affect the state of freedom of information, preventing violations. The FOICA initiates court cases against those officials, who violate citizens’ right to know, do not respond the information requests, or provide incomplete information. Due to this process a positive court precedent practice on freedom of information is gradually formed.
Since 2003 the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia has been carrying a mission of judicial protection of the access to information right. By July 1st, 2020, 70 court cases have been initiated by the FOICA which are fully completed and only 2 are still in process.
Some of the court cases initiated by the FOICA were of precedential importance. Such was the case “FOICA vs. Elpin village municipality” which ended in 2009. This was the case when for the first time the official who has violated the right to information was imposed to an administrative penalty – AMD 50.000. This precedent developed in the coming years and was replenished with two more cases by which the information holders, that had violated the FOI right were imposed to an administrative penalty. Those cases are the FOICA vs. the “Daughter Marianna” Co. Ltd and the FOICA vs. “Yerevan Urban Development and Investment Programs Department” SNCO. The final court decisions on these cases were made in 2013.
Of precedential importance was also the FOICA’s claim to the RA Constitutional Court. On September 9, 2009, the FOICA applied to the Constitutional Court with the claim to consider Articles 151 and 152 of the RA Code of Administrative Procedures as contradictory with Articles 18 and 19 of the Constitution and to announce them invalid. On 05 February 2010 the Constitutional Court decided that articles 151 and 152 of the Code of Administrative Procedures do not contradict the Constitution. At the same time the constitutional court stated that the problem is in the legislative gap and gave a direct recommendation to the National Assembly to take appropriate actions to reform the Code of Administrative Offence and fill the gap of imposing administrative sanctions. The Chairman of the Constitutional Court Mr. Gagik Harutyunyan thanked the FOICA for touching upon such an important issue.
This initiative of the FOICA was not left without consequence. On 31 January 2011 the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia adopted a reform package which also anticipates removing the requirement of a report about administrative violations from the Code of Administrative Procedures.
According to amendments made on January 31 in Armenia’s Administrative Procedure Code, the requirement to write a statement on the fact of FOI administrative offenses was removed. Thus, according to the last paragraph of Article 254 of the Administrative Procedure Code, no statement is needed when the access to information right is violated.
In 2012 such cases were FOICA vs. Democratic Party of Armenia and FOICA vs. “Daughter Marianna” Co. Ltd. cases, when court not only restored the violated FOI right, but also obliged the information holders to compensate the state fee paid by the FOICA, as well as the advocate’s payment.