A number of Armenian lawyers have recently been subjected to more and more pressure in their work, according to a group of lawyers who gathered today at a press conference in Yerevan to talk about issues concerning the implementation of criminal justice in Armenia, the restriction of defendants’ rights and the recent violence against them, the obstruction of lawyers’ activities, and the lack of judicial independence.
According to Hayk Alumyan, lawyers are especially exposed to pressure when protecting those defendants who tried to go against the state, particularly, the members of the Sasna Tsrer anti-government armed group and the “organized criminal group” arrested in 2015 by Armenia’s security forces in Yerevan’s Nork district. Over the past few months, the lawyer went on, developments in a number of criminal cases have shown that the state has concentrated on putting pressure on lawyers by limiting their rights in various ways. Namely, Alumyan talked about the June 28 incident of violence against members of the Sasna Tsrer group.
“Try to imagine that – your client is being beaten right in front of your eyes, some 20 meters away from you. This means that a lawyer is being offended in a professional setting; his professional activities are being completely disregarded, and he can’t intervene in the beating,” Alumyan said.
He also mentioned that law enforcement officers have begun attempting to search the lawyers at the entrance of courthouses. It’s noteworthy, he added, that these searches seem to be carried out in a completely arbitrary and random manner: “You never know who and when they will want to search.”
At the beginning of one of the Sasna Tsrer hearings, according to Alumyan, the lawyers refused to allow police officers to search them and called the chairman of the Chamber of Advocates. Once the chairman arrived at the scene, the officers said they would allow the lawyers in without getting searched, which “again proves the arbitrariness of the officers’ activities.”
“What’s more, they are searching our bags to find items a list of which they do not actually have. These searches are solely aimed at discrediting the lawyers. Can you imagine judges getting searched every time they want to enter a courthouse? Who said judges deserve more respect than lawyers?” Alumyan argued.
He also complained about the fact that a number of lawyers are being subjected to sanction for refusing to take part in hearings without the presence of their clients: “How can lawyers remain in the courtroom when the clients have told them not to take any steps without their knowledge?”