Armenia: Court Limits Mother's Rights over Religion - Appeal Granted

Publication Date: 
May 17, 2011

YEREVAN, Armenia—After a court decision jeopardized a mother’s parental rights with her young son, Margarit Hovhannisyan one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, appealed the ruling with Armenia’s Cassation Court. Her efforts paid off on April 1, 2011, when the Cassation Court, unanimously granted her request.

On November 10, 2010, the Court of Appeal upheld a trial court ruling which restricted Ms. Hovhannisyan’s parental rights and limited her access to her young son solely because she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Cassation Court declared that the rulings of the lower courts were unlawful and ordered a new trial.

 In its ruling, the Cassation Court observed that the lower courts had not cited any evidence that Ms. Hovhannisyan’s religious beliefs were in any way harmful to her child. To the contrary, the Court noted that the evidence had established that Ms. Hovhannisyan’s relationship with her son could have a “positive” impact on him and satisfy his “needs for motherly love, emotional affection, and tenderness.”

“This is a significant decision for parent-child rights and freedom of religion,” explains human rights defender Lyova Margaryan. “It is consistent with previous decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as Hoffman v. Austria and Palau-Martinez v. France which have ruled that it is unlawful to restrict a parent’s rights simply because the parent is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”