The Armenian government has abandoned plans to introduce a new state duty for lawyers which have prompted strong objections from them.
A government bill drafted by the Ministry of Justice last year would require each of them to pay 60,000 drams ($150) annually for their registration with a relevant state body. Scores of lawyers have protested against it in recent months, some of them threatening not to pay the fee at the risk of losing their license.
Government officials dismissed these protests late last year, saying that the proceeds from the fee would be used for providing lawyers to criminal suspects who cannot afford legal counseling. Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian personally defended the planned measure.
However, the ministry confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday that it has withdrawn the controversial bill. It refused to give any reasons for the unexpected move.
Armenia’s Chamber of Advocates, the national bar association uniting more than 1,000 lawyers, welcomed the development. Its chairman, Ara Zohrabian, has personally campaigned against the bill with letters sent to the Justice Ministry and other government bodies.
Zohrabian said the scrapping of the bill is good news also because it envisaged lawyers’ registration with the ministry. That could have made them more vulnerable to government pressure, he claimed.