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Lawyers in Armenia have postponed planned protest rallies after Parliament passed in its second hearing a controversial bill which would allow judges impose fines on lawyers for contempt of the court. The authorities offered to meet with lawyers to discuss the bill.
In a 12 February statement, the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia, which organised the protests, said they plan to continue protesting the bill even now it has passed, and are asking the President not to sign it.
However, they said that the protest rallies planned for 14, 15, and 16 February, have been postponed.
The Chamber said on 7 February that hundreds of lawyers went on strike throughout the country, protesting the draft law they say ‘targets lawyers’. They are a non-profit organisation claiming almost 2,000 members.
The bill, drafted by the Government, has faced criticism as lawyers fear it will be used to limit their rights during court hearings. It would allow judges to fine them up to ֏100,000 ($210).
Armenian law already penalises contempt of court, but the draft would introduce additional fines exclusively for lawyers.
However, the Chamber claims there is no need to establish a penalty for lawyers separately. They argue that the bill may ‘endanger lawyers’ independence’.
The Chamber quoted the Ministry of Justice on 12 February as announcing that they were ready to discuss the amendments with lawyers. The Chamber welcomed the offer, but argued that they need guarantees for their independence.