The provision of legal advice and assistance has been and will continue to be one of the essential means whereby the Europe in Law fulfills its mission in Armenia and wider Europe.
One important area in which ELA’s legal assistance has turned useful is the rights of the media and their workers. While co-operating with several media, ELA has assisted various journalists in the process of preparation of their regular publications in striking the right balance between the right to freedom of expression, on the one hand, and the right to respect for privacy, family, home and correspondence; the right to a fair trial, including the maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary and the presumption of innocence, etc., on the other.
This assistance and advice has taken the form of pre-publication screening of journalistic articles, consultation on a number of issues related to domestic and international law in the course of preparation of journalistic articles, advice on the international aspects of both the substantive and procedural law during litigations involving the media and their workers.
The right to freedom of expression was in the focus of ELA’s legal assistance and advice-related activities in the course of 2011. Throughout 2012-2013 it continued to be in the spotlight of the ELA’s activities, especially in the context of the parliamentary elections in 2012 and the presidential elections in 2013. This right will always remain in the center of ELA’s attention. ELA has been providing legal assistance to victims and victims representatives in a number of high-profile cases. An example of such a case was the well-known ‘Harsnaqar’ case in which ELA’s lawyers represented the successors of a military doctor who had been beaten to death by the bodyguards of one of the then MPs, Ruben Hayrapetyan. Due to immense public pressure and ELA’s consistent efforts 6 of these bodyguards received 12-year prison sentences in 2014. However, due to serious mistakes in the investigation and the trial of this case, the crime and the culprits were not fully detected, for which reason an application was submitted to the ECtHR in 2015 invoking a violation of the procedural limb of the right to life.
Since 2013 ELA has rendered legal advice and assistance to active citizens in the exercise by them of their right to freedom of assembly. In 2013 the Armenian police adopted a new tactics of hindering protests held by active citizens by filing administrative complaints against them to the RA Administrative Court for allegedly disobeying lawful police orders. In a rather short period of time the Court was literally inundated with hundreds of complaints against protesters. Not only was the police trying to have the court find the protesters liable but also impose fines on them. Given the fact that the overwhelming majority of protesters were from socially vulnerable groups, these sanctions were capable of having a chilling effect on the exercise by them of their free assembly rights. ELA’s lawyers started rendering legal assistance to these protesters in over 200 cases. By assiduous work and clever strategy, the lawyers recruited by ELA succeeded in having the police withdraw a large portion of these cases. The lawyers acting on behalf of the protesters won almost 50 % of these cases. In cases where the lawyers did not achieve success, further course of action was taken by lodging applications to the European Court of Human Rights.
There are already cases which have been communicated to the Armenian Government, which gives hope that the victims of the above violations will have redress for their violated rights. Following the constitutional referendum in December 2015, the local elections held since 2013, the 2016 parliamentary elections ELA has provided legal assistance to local election observers in defending their electoral and freedom of expression rights.
Since July 2016 ELA’s lawyers have also been involved in another politically sensitive case called the ‘Sasna Dzrer’ case rendering legal assistance to a number of defendants in this case. Finally, ELA has been providing coaching to a number of local lawyers on a number of issues in the area of criminal, civil and administrative laws, as well as on how to draft applications to the RA Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Throughout its existence ELA has extended a helping hand to all interested in such priority areas as the right to a fair trial, the right to an effective remedy, the right to liberty and security of a person, the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.