Hundreds of lawyers have gone on strike in Armenia, protesting a draft law they say ‘targets lawyers’. The bill would allow judges to fine them for contempt of the court. The lawyers began a two day strike began on 7 February.
The bill has faced criticism as lawyers fear it will be used to limit their rights during court hearings. It would allow judges to fine them by up to ֏100,000 ($210).
The bill was drafted by the Government and passed its first hearing in parliament in November, according to Azatutyun, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Armenian law already penalises contempt of court, but the draft would introduce additional fines exclusively for lawyers.
Azatutyun quoted Justice Minister Davit Harutyunyan, the author of the bill, as saying that these provisions had now been removed from the bill.
But according to them, Harutyunyan ‘made clear the amendments will be incorporated into another code’, the Procedural Code, which they plan to amend later in 2018.
In an 8 February statement, the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia, which organised the protests, said ‘there is no need to establish a judicial penalty for lawyers separately’. The Chamber is a non-profit organisation claiming almost 2,000 members.
According to the statement, the ministry has not substantiated why the amendment is necessary. It also claimed that the fine ‘may endanger lawyers’ independence’.
The Chamber say they are planning to continue to protest on 14, 15, and 16 February.