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Armenian Lawyers To Go On Strike Against High Court


Armenia - People wait outside a district court building in Yerevan, 09Jan2012.

Armenia - People wait outside a district court building in Yerevan, 09Jan2012.

More than one hundred lawyers plan to go on an unprecedented one-day strike next Monday in protest against what they see as arbitrary decisions routinely made by Armenia’s Court of Cassation.

In a statement publicized on Wednesday, they specifically objected to the court’s refusal to even consider the vast majority of appeals lodged by defense attorneys and litigants in civil cases.

“Ordinary citizens cannot understand why one appeal was accepted for consideration but another one wasn’t. That’s impossible to understand,” one of the protesting lawyers, Hayk Alumian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Alumian claimed that the Court of Cassation has thrown out, without a ruling, as much as 99 percent of appeals since the entry into force in 2007 of an “ambiguous” law that gave it greater discretionary authority. “The Court of Appeals has created a judicial practice very beneficial for it, deepening that ambiguity,” he said. “It is now operating in a completely arbitrary manner.”

The Court of Cassation, which is the highest body of criminal and civil justice in Armenia, declined to immediately comment on the planned protest. A spokesman said it will comment later this week.

The court already faced last year embarrassing street protests by lawyers after its chairman, Arman Mkrtumian, engineered the controversial sacking of a Yerevan judge who granted bail to a criminal suspect contrary to prosecutors’ wishes.

The judge, Samvel Mnatsakanian, was dismissed by President Serzh Sarkisian in July 2011 upon the recommendation of the Justice Council, a state body overseeing Armenian courts. The council is headed by Mkrtumian.

Mnatsakanian decried a lack of judicial independence in the country after the sacking. He claimed that many judges are primarily concerned with not upsetting high-level state authorities and the Court of Cassation in particular, rather than enforcing laws.
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