The Ministry of Justice of Armenia has put into circulation a draft RA Judicial Code, which includes a provision on the right of the judge to fine a lawyer, participating in the trial, up to 100,000 Armenian drams.
In the condition of the absence of real independence of courts and of distorted justice, when the fight for justice is mostly on the shoulders of advocates and human rights defenders, the determination of such a legislative "sanction" against the latters is simply a challenge to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is noteworthy that bases for applying a judicial sanction the high reputation of the judiciary and goals of ensuring public confidence in the judiciary are mentioned.
The fact that the sanction has been chosen as the means of attaining these goals causes uncertainty. Authority and confidence can be earned or gained by legitimate work, and the way they are punished speaks about their own powerlessness.
The acting legislation contains a number of non-legitimate norms of interference and limitation of professional activities of the advocate, and “supplementing” them with new restrictions implies a direct retreat in the field of human rights protection and violation of the commitments under international treaties.
Advocacy is also a way and a means of human rights activity. It should have a wide range of possibilities and maximum guarantees as well as the opportunity to act freely.
These rights are verified by a number of international legal documents, to which the Republic of Armenia is also a member. Instead of ensuring these rights, the Armenian authorities have initiated a restricting policy.
The United Nations “Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers” (1990) sets out the following as guarantees for the functioning of lawyers:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers:
are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;
shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics, as well as threats of such persecution and sanctions.
Lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority”.
The Helsinki Association considers the intention of the RA Ministry of Justice of restricting the activities of the advocate (the human rights defender) unacceptable and appeals:
to all competent authorities to withdraw from the circulation of the draft RA Judicial Code on fining the advocate;
to all interested organizations, structures and individuals to exert maximum efforts for preventing potential discussions or adoption of the draft law.
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