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Armenian Teacher Fined AMD 200 000 for ‘Negligently’ Inflicting Eye Injury on Student

In late 2014, physics teacher in the town of Sevan Hasmik Margaryan threatened to hit high-schooler Mesrop Khachatryan with a floor hanger “so hard that you enter into the wall.” The teacher proceeded to push the hanger towards the student, as a result of which Khachatryan suffered an eye injury and subsequently lost his eye. Despite Khachatryan’s claim that the teacher’s actions had been intentional, Armenian courts attributed his injury to Margaryan’s “carelessness” and decided that she only had to pay an AMD 200 000 fine to the state. Mesrop Khachatryan’s lawyer, Ani Chatinyan, has spoken to Epress.am about her client’s intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

On December 9, 2014, according to Chatinyan, her client felt cold in the classroom and, without having asked for the teacher’s permission, tried to unnoticeably get to the hanger to pick up his coat. The teacher noticed Khachatryan and began walking towards him, while the student tried to hide behind the hanger. Margaryan then pushed the hanger against Khachatryan, as a result of which the student suffered a serious injury to his left eye.

In 2016, the Gegharkunik province first instance court found Margaryan guilty of inflicting grave damage on Khachatryan through negligence (Article 120 of RA Criminal Code) and fined her AMD 200 000.

“The circumstances described by the victim testify that the teacher’s actions were intentional. An AMD 200 000 fine as a punishment is just absurd; the kid has lost his eye for the rest of his life,” Ani Chatinyan, a lawyer with the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office (HCAV), told Epress.am. According to the lawyer, HCAV began defending Khachatryan’s rights after the court had already issued its verdict so she can’t say for sure what made the judge hand out such a disproportionately mild punishment.

The plaintiff had asked for an AMD 16 400 000 compensation for material damages, but this request was denied by the first instance court. Later in 2016, the Court of Appeal sent the compensation claim back to the lower court for revision and the proceedings are still ongoing. At the same time, the Appeal Court found that the lower court ruling regarding the teacher’s actions had to remain unchanged.

Lawyer Chatinyan has already filed in appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, stressing that the damage suffered by her client was not on physical but also psychological. According to Khachatryan’s parents and his classmates, the previously hard-working and cheerful student now feels too anxious to even attend school. What’s more, Chatinyan’s appeal says, Armenian courts did not even take into consideration the fact that there was an iron clothes hanger in a classroom full of underage children, which by itself poses danger to the students. The state, and namely the school management, according to Chatinyan, should have foreseen the potential danger of having an iron hanger in a classroom.