Advocates’ Harassment


Women and girls in Iran are not allowed to leave their homes unless they cover their hair with a headscarf and cover up their arms and legs with loose clothing. A movement against the compulsory hijab erupted in Iran in 2017 when one woman staged a solo act of resistance. She removed her headscarf and silently waved it on the end of a stick. Countless women across the country joined her, staging their own protests. They become known as the “Girls of Revolution Street.”

A human rights defender: jailed

In 2018, Nasrin defended some of these women who faced prosecution. Now, Nasrin has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes after two grossly unfair trials, and is separated from her husband and two children. Women should be able to choose what they wear, and lawyers should be able to defend their right to do so. This is the harshest sentence recorded against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years, suggesting that the authorities are stepping up their repression. 

Help free Nasrin

This isn’t the first time Nasrin has been targeted. In 2010 she was sentenced to six years in prison for her human rights work. But when thousands of people like you stood up to demand her freedom, she was pardoned and released. Our campaign worked then, it can work again for Nasrin now. 

Nasrin has dedicated her life to defending human rights. You can join our campaign.

The source Amnesty International UK

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Before he expressed his opinion on video filming at the court hearing, the representative of the Chamber of Advocates of Armenia, Gevorg Mkrtchyan had wished to clarify who was going to film it. Knowing that it was the film crew of the “Helsinki Association” human rights organization, he objected saying: “I am objecting to it. I know their workstyle; the video can be interpreted in their own way”.

The plaintiff Arayik Papikyan described the reasoning of the representative of the Chamber as unreliable and unfounded.

Today, Arayik Papikyan disputed the decisions of 10.08.2017, No. 233-A/KG-17068 of the Chairman of the Chamber of Advocates and of 05.04.2018, No. KG/65-A of the Board.

The judge Diana Hovhannisyan clarified that the lack of the footage of the court hearing might give rise to a different interpretation and presentation of the hearing, and on the contrary, it would be much easier to avoid possible “their own interpretations” in case video filming and shooting was available.

Saying in his speech that he works at the Helsinki Association, Arayik Papikyan also informed that the organization carries out monitoring of court hearings and filming of similar case trials of both his and other advocates.

Nevertheless, the representative of the Chamber of Advocates insisted on his opinion, and the judge, referring to the Code of the Civil Procedure and the objection of the respondent, had to forbid the video filming of the hearing.   

The hearing of the case was postponed because the plaintiff was to change the grounds for the lawsuit. The hearing was postponed until April 16.

On the same grounds, the hearing of the case on the requirement to recognize invalid the decisions of 15.09.2017, No. 295-A/KG-17111 of the Chairman of the Chamber of Advocates and of the Board of 15.03.2018, No. KG/51-A, was postponed.

The representative of the respondent Gevorg Mkrtchyan objected to the video filming of this case too. He reasoned that Arayik Papikyan works at the Helsinki Association and that he was afraid that the hearing might be interpreted in their own way.

Mkrtchyan objected, and in particular he said: “The Honorable Court, it is not difficult to make citations.” He suggested that the filed motion should be rejected.

Arayik Papikyan filed a motion to postpone the preliminary court hearing as the basis of the lawsuit required some supplementation, without any change of the subject.

The respondent Gevorg Mkrtchyan objected to the motion, reasoning that the plaintiff had had enough time to address it.

The judge Diana Hovhannisyan explained that in case any party in proceedings submits such a motion before the distribution of the burden of proof is made, the presiding judge should postpone the case trial.

The next hearing was scheduled for April 16.

For the information of the representative of the RA Chamber of Advocates, Gevorg Mkrtchyan, we would like to inform that the full video footage on court hearings of monitored cases is posted on the website of the Helsinki Association almost with no video edition, keeping the complete content.

To make sure, one can compare a video of any hearing of the Board of the Chamber posted on the website of the Helsinki Association at with the related  recording of the corresponding hearing of the Board.

In order one could avoid attempts, in your opinion, of “their own interpretation” of hearings of the Board of the Chamber of Advocates, you should have permitted, for instance, to have them open, accessible, and without artificial obstacle to the public as it was before.

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The head of the Vanadzor Penitentiary Institution applied to the Chamber of Advocates to request about bringing to liability the advocate Arayik Papikyan for the fact that he had only demanded an immediate execution of the court decision.

On February 27, the Criminal Court of Appeal made a decision on the immediate release of his client. The advocate sent the decision of the court to the Vanadzor Penitentiary, which had not been executed for a few hours.

“I called on the Vanadzor Penitentiary to complain and request, even using some harsh expressions, that my client immediately be released as there was the decision of his immediate release from the court,” said Arayik Papikyan.

The head of the Vanadzor Penitentiary, Artak Hovhannisyan, in his motion filed in the Chamber of Advocates quoted from the telephone conversation he had had with Arayik Papikyan. He noted that all those who do not execute court decisions should be brought to liability. The defender brought the names of the Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan, the head of the penitentiary service and the head of the penitentiary institution.

“Actually, I did not behave myself in a correct way. Now I want to inform that I said all that even in a very soft manner. I reaffirm that all those who do not make any court decision shall be brought to liability,” says the advocate. He also adds: "If the head of the Vanadzor Penitentiary is not aware of Article 353 of the Criminal Code, it is high time to remind him that it is written in black and white that not executing intentionally a judicial act in which the term of execution is specified is a criminally punishable act.”

The head of the Vanadzor Penitentiary requested the Head of the Chamber of Advocates to accept the letter as a report and discuss the expediency of initiating disciplinary proceedings against Arayik Papikyan.

“If I, in his opinion, have violated any codes of conduct, then the issue of expediency cannot be discussed. This should not have been an issue of a discretionary domain. In other words, he even doubts whether Arayik Papikyan has violated anything or not,” says the advocate.

Arayik Papikyan suggests that the legal knowledge of the head of the Penitentiary Institution should have to be examined by the Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan. And if the telephone call was recorded about which Arayik Papikyan had not been informed, then the recorder Hayk Kachyan permitted a violation of the law.

The officer of the penitentiary should respond if the telephone call had been recorded or just a citation was brought from the conversation. Arayik Papikyan assures that his words are misrepresented.

“They noted that the advocate had urged the relatives of the detainee not to present a copy of the decision to the penitentiary. A person with a fantastic imaginary can allow himself to such an action.” According to the advocate, all these facts prove that officers of the penitentiary institutions continue those manners that were typical at the time of Serzh Sargsyan, and Robert Kocharyan, and no changes have been noticed yet.

More details can be found on the video.

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Mass prosecution of advocates had begun since July 17, 2016, the time they were involved in the defense of the criminal cases initiated in respect to the capture of the Patrol Service Regiment in Yerevan. Courts had been sanctioning advocates for “disrespectful treatment against the court”, and then the Chamber of Advocates subjected them to a widespread disciplinary liability. The vivid evidence of this was the fact that in 2017 the Board of the Chamber of Advocates initiated 86 disciplinary proceedings, of which 69 were only related to the case of the Sasna Tsrer. Any statistical data for 2018 are not available yet.

The entrance of the advocates to the courtroom was also hindered by court bailiffs; there were threats against the advocate Arayik Papikyan and his family members on the Facebook social networking site. The person/s who spread threats has not been disclosed so far.

The issue of the harassment against advocates involved in high-profile cases was once again raised during a round-table discussion entitled “Advocating Advocates' Rights in Armenia”. It was within the frames of the program of advocates' rights advocacy in Armenia implemented by the Helsinki Association in support with the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). The program touched upon the activities of more than 17 advocates, more than 55 criminal cases were monitored in which the prosecuted advocates are involved. Within the framework of the program, a number of disciplinary  hearings of the CA Board were also been monitored and interviews on various topics related to their professional field were conducted with the prosecuted advocates and public defenders.

During the round-table discussion, Arayik Papikyan, who is also involved in the high-profile cases as a defense lawyer, noted that, regardless of the conditions under which the advocates were subjected to judicial sanctions, the Chamber arguments represented the following template formulation: “Having analysed the above-mentioned, the advocate clearly realised that his actions were not legitimate and allowed a violation of the ethics rules of the advocate's conduct, consequently the following measure of liability should be applied against him.”

 Meanwhile, advocates clearly stated that they had acted only for the benefit of their defendants, to ensure a fair trial for them, and to protect the high reputation of the advocates’ community as well. “It can be supposed from the letter of the Chamber that the advocates had realised that they violated, and they allowed the violation,” said Araiyk Papikyan. Most advocates disagree with the decisions of the Chamber of Advocates, and they appeal the decisions in the court. But here too, we have reached deadlock.

“Having examined the advocate's complaint, the court should essentially acknowledge that another judge has made an incorrect decision against the advocate. Taking into account our judicial system and who the judges are, this can arouse suspicion,” added Arayik Papikyan, who himself has been subjected to more than two dozens of disciplinary sanctions. In his words, advocates should not be identified with their defendants.

During the round-table, opinions were expressed that the disciplinary proceedings subjected against the advocates should be dismissed as they had been initiated by the order of the former authorities.

 The participating advocates expressed their opinion about the law that came into force on January 1, 2019, according to which the advocate may be fined up to 100,000 Armenian drams for a disrespectful attitude against the court. “One of the biggest arguments is that the judge himself offends, he makes a decision and he punishes. To perform his direct duties, the advocate may be fined,” said the advocate Nina Karapetyants, head of the “Helsinki Association” NGO.

The advocate Arayik Papikyan stressed that if the advocate is going to pay that money and is not going to appeal, it means he has been disrespectful. After that, the Chamber of Advocates should initiate disciplinary proseedings and if they find out that the advocate has violated the rule of conduct in the court he will once be warned. “That is, for my one violation, I will be punished twice. Meanwhile, it is a fundamental principle is not to be convicted twice for one and the same action”.

Still on February 4, 2019, the “Helsinki Association” human rights NGO applied to the NA Speaker and MPs, including former lawyers, who are now parliamentarians, to propose to eliminate the law or edit it so that it does not refer to them. No response has been received yet. According to Nina Karapetiants, the current powers can change that law as they have enough votes. “To make sure that steps are taken as a result of the revolution, that law should be abolished,” added advocate Hayarpi Sargsyan.

Proposals were put forward which will be summed up and presented during the next scheduled round-table meeting.

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On March 7, 2019, the "Helsinki Association" human rights NGO is inviting a round-table meeting-discussion on the topic of “Advocating Advocates' Rights”.

The purpose of the discussion is to identify the existing shortcomings in the legislative field dealing with advocacy activities that seriously hinder active and effective functioning of the field actors, those various harassment and pressure they are subjected to while performing their professional duties, and to suggest potential steps aimed at the solution of challenges and legislative amendments, for further elaboration and proposals to the Government of Armenia.

The round-table meeting will take place at "Garni" Hall of "Ani Plaza" Hotel (19 Sayat-Nova, Yerevan) from 18.00 to 20.00.

On the agenda, presenting challenges in the legislative field related to advocacy activities during the past two years, and offering solutions.

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