Armenia’s national bar association confirmed on Tuesday it did not endorse a two-day strike called by hundreds of lawyers despite supporting their complaints against the country’s top appeals court.
The nearly 200 attorneys stopped working on Monday in fresh protest against what they say are arbitrary decisions routinely made by the Court of Cassation. They specifically object to its allegedly unsubstantiated refusals to consider the vast majority of appeals lodged by them in criminal or civil cases.
The high court faced similar protests one year ago. They involved a much larger number of lawyers and were backed by the Armenian Chamber of Advocates.
The chamber’s deputy chairman, Ara Zohrabian, said the bar association avoided voicing support for the latest strike because it still hopes that the Armenian authorities will address the problem with planned legal amendments.
“We decided to wait until the government formulates its position and see whether things will change as a result of that bill. We will thus have made use of all legal instruments,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
According to Zohrabian, the Court of Cassation drafted a set of amendments to Armenian legislation regulating the judiciary in response to the June 2012 strike. He said the draft amendments still considered by the government would require the court to “substantiate” its decisions to throw out appeals from defense lawyers.
The protesting lawyers are skeptical about the planned legislative changes, however, saying that they will not solve the problem. They say the Court of Cassation will stick to its questionable practices until lower Armenian courts become genuinely independent of the government and higher judicial bodies.