Civil society activists suggest providing free legal aid to people with disabilities in civil cases

Sep 26, 2014

“According to our legislation, citizens with hearing disabilities have the right to drive. When they get into an accident, it is very difficult to prove their innocence for them, and often persons with disabilities turn out to be guilty while being innocent. The reason behind this is that the government does not prepare sign language interpreters; there are practically no sign language interpreters. But if there is a need to hire them, the state does not pay for their services”, says Kalyk Mambetakunov, Head of the Society for the persons with vision and hearing disabilities.

According to representatives of organizations dealing with protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, they often need legal support in civil and administrative cases. In such cases, public organizations assist them through various projects.

During one of the public discussions of the draft law "On guaranteed legal aid" organized with UNDP’s support, representatives of civil society highlighted the necessity to ensure access of vulnerable populations, especially PwDs and retirees, to the state-guaranteed legal aid in civil cases, as the majority of them refer mainly to civil courts. This discussion was attended by representatives of the President’s Office of the Kyrgyz Republic, Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic, state bodies, civil society and international organizations.

The main purpose of this draft law is to ensure that citizens have the rights to access to justice and qualified legal aid, despite the fact that they lack means to protect the rights and interests through creation of an effective governance system and the provision of state-guaranteed legal aid. This draft law establishes a mechanism for provision of legal assistance guaranteed by the state and identifies people eligible free legal aid. The bill also lays out the management system of legal aid, procedures for its granting and financing.

Member of the expert working group Alia Abdysatarova noted in her presentation that the draft law has considerably expanded the range of persons who have the right to free legal aid, which makes the law more socially oriented and easier to use. The system of agencies and persons involved in the provision of state-guaranteed legal aid has also been expanded.

However, according to the Deputy Minister of Justice Jyldyz Mambetalieva, the draft law does not provide for free legal protection in civil and administrative cases because of deficit in financial resources. “Why should we adopt laws that will not work?” she asks.

Mr. Kalyk Mambetakunov noted that there are 155 thousand people with disabilities registered in the country, but not all of them become offenders of criminal law. “At the same time in most cases, they find themselves in a difficult situation when they need legal assistance, especially in civil cases, and very often they cannot afford a lawyer. I think that if we include the article on the provision of free legal aid to disabled persons at the expense of the state budget, it will not be a heavy loss for the state” he concluded.

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