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Identifying a defence counsel with a client is impermissible-Ministry of Justice

08/08/2018

The Ministry of Justice deems it appropriate to touch upon manifestations of hatred that have recently become common in public, as well as criticisms crossing the line of insult and defamation targeted against some advocates involved in criminal cases as defence counsels.

In a democratic and legal state, at the construction of which the efforts of all of us are targeted, the right to legal aid, including the right to protection in a criminal case is the pillar of justice. The right of a person to receive legal aid is guaranteed by the Constitution. Legal aid is provided to everybody, regardless of the status of the person, the nature of the offence incriminated thereto, previously held position, activities carried out by him or her and other circumstances.

The right to receive legal aid is one of the bedrocks of a democratic state and society, as well as the guarantee for having a sustainable and accountable state system.

As for protection of the rights of the accused, in the specified cases, it is impossible to ensure both the protection of rights of the person and administration of justice without receiving high-quality legal aid.

It should be mentioned that, pursuant to part 1 of Article 162 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, in the Republic of Armenia, justice shall be administered only by courts in compliance with the Constitution and laws. Prior to entry into force of the indictment delivered by the court, every accused is considered as innocent; thus, an advocate may not assume the role of a judge and refuse to defend any person based on his or her presumption of guilt.

Refusal to assume defence of a specific accused by advocates will result in a gross violation of fair trial and the right to access to justice. Criminal justice is based on the principles of competition and separation of functions. In other words, every participant of the criminal procedure must diligently exercise his or her functions; a prosecutor must accuse, a judge must deliver a judgment, and a defence counsel must defend his or her client through means not prohibited by law and based on his or her favourable interests. Only in this case will it be possible to maintain rule of law and real democracy. There are a lot of cases in history when even legal aid was ensured for persons charged with the commission of offences against humanity and peace, governed by the interests of justice.

It should also be underlined that identifying a defence counsel with a client is impermissible. The principle of personal liability exists in the Republic of Armenia; thus, any other person should not bear the negative consequences arising from the act incriminated thereto. Therefore, the wave of hatred and hate speech against advocates merely conditioned by fulfilment of duties imposed on them under the law on behalf of the public must be ruled out. The Government attaches importance to the special role of professional activities of advocates on the path to building a democratic society and informs that obstructing the activities arising from that role distort the very essence of justice.

 

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