A Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on the topic of access to Justice as a key element of the rule of law took place on 16-17 November in Vienna, Hofburg.
The meeting targeted the main current legal and practical challenges in the area of access to justice in the OSCE region, to exchange relevant information and identify good practices in addressing these challenges and to articulate recommendation for OSCE participating states on improving access to justice as a key element of the rule of law.
The NGO ‘’Protection of rights without borders” participated in the meeting and presented the main practical problems of access to justice in Armenia and the recent developments on that issue in the country.
Hasmik Harutyunyan, legal expert of PRWB spoke about the the criminal persecution instituted against the participants of “Sasna Tsrer” group activities and other related events during July-August in Armenia. The human rights violations, including violation of the right of access to court were demonstrated in the following way:
- Intervention and hindrance of the professional activities of the advocates,
- Persecution and harassment against the advocates,
- Violence and harassment against the defendants;
- Prosecution against the citizens participating in the court sessions.
According to the speech “within the above-mentioned cases, the advocates were identified with their defenders and persecutions against the advocates in regard to the implementation of their professional activities were implemented.
The advocates involved in the presented cases were subjected to personal inspection: at the entrance of the court, body and personal belonging inspection of the advocates was conducted through a metal detector. The security check itself is not a violation and may be outweighed by the legitimate interest in the prevention of crime. However, there are issues that cause the violation:
- The personal inspection of the advocates for the entrance to the court building was not considered as a demonstration of common practice: this practice has never been applied before, and the choice of the cases, for the participation in which requires personal inspection of the advocates was not conducted on the choice of concrete, predictable and fair criteria. In addition, some cases were recorded, when a few advocates participating in the court hearing on the same criminal case were subjected to personal inspection and others were not subjected.
- No regulation regarding the order and means for their implementation of check and inspection is ensured by the domestic legislation (law, any sub-legal act). The legislation also lacks the procedural rules, which should be followed by the judicial bailiffs, regarding the use of technical equipment, including metal detector. This leads to a situation, where the demonstration of arbitrariness by the government agents (bailiffs) is uncontrollable and this inevitably brings to human rights violations”.
As to the persecution against advocates, Ms Harutyunyan mentioned that ‘’In all the presented cases, when the advocates refused to publically show their personal belongings at the presence of third party, the bailiffs qualified these actions as a refusal to obey their legal requirements and did not allow the advocates to enter the courtroom. On the grounds of the intentional absence of the advocates, the court decided to apply the sanction against the advocate and filed a motion to the President of the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia with the demand to subject the advocate to disciplinary sanction”.