Kyrgyz Government recognized the role of NGOs in a UNDP-backed reform of free legal aid

Nov 21, 2014

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – On November 21, 2014 representatives of civil society, legal experts and other interested parties gathered in Bishkek to discuss the current state of the system of guaranteed legal aid in the Kyrgyz Republic. Participants discussed issues related to legal consultations, role of NGOs in the free legal aid system, joint plans on advancing ideas on expansion legal opportunities of vulnerable demographics and creating a network of NGO to work with the free legal aid system.

A task force working on the draft law on “State guaranteed legal aid” also participated in the discussion.

“Currently Kyrgyzstan is reforming its judicial system and the Government intends to reform the system of free legal aid (FLA) as part of this process. The draft law on state guaranteed legal aid is developed and the contribution of NGOs in this reform will be invaluable" said Ainura Bekkoenova UNDP Democratic Governance Dimension Сhief.

The draft law on legal aid guaranteed by the state includes some innovations such as expanding the number of beneficiaries and recognizing the role of NGOs in the system of free legal aid. Until now there were no legislative framework to regulate the relationship between the state and non-governmental structures. This framework will make the national system of free legal aid more efficient.

“The main role of NGOs is to help the state to create a vision of how should the system of free legal aid work. We begin this dialogue today, we will continue in the future, and it means that the person who has no documents will not be left unattended” said Nurianna Kartanbaeva, Director of the Legal Program of the "Soros-Kyrgyzstan" Foundation.

Speaking about issues related to legal aid and consultations, representative of the “Foundation of development rights and business” Damira Bustanova noted that rendering free legal services will provide access to justice for especially vulnerable demographics.

Free services resolve not only legal problems, but also increase their legal knowledge. According to the Foundation, its experts provided legal assistance in 2, 535 cases from September 12, 2013 to August 30, 2014 in 30 pilot municipalities of Kyrgyzstan. Damira Bustanova noted that almost all of these cases are consequences of low quality of state and municipal services.

There are a number of active legal clinics, which provide free legal aid as part of different projects in Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, these clinics provide free assistance as long as their projects last and that’s why participants of the round table highlighted the importance of creating a stable system. They also suggested training paralawyers, persons who don't have legal education, but passed basic law courses and can provide free legal aid. This practice is wide-spread around the world.

Legal expert Ruslan Hakimov presented results of analysis of different models of state legal aid from around the world, which was carried out as part of UNDP’s project on widening access to justice. Ruslan Hakimov looked at experience Armenia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Netherlands and identified several ways of providing legal aid:

  1. Assistance is provided directly by staff of state agencies and local governments as part of their professional duties;
  2. Assistance is provided by government free legal aid offices (centers) at which lawyers and attorneys get paid by the government.
  3. State agencies delegate these services to attorneys’ community. However, they control funding, monitor quality, participate in selection of lawyers and attorneys.
  4. The mixed form at which, legal services are provided by both state agencies and public organizations, and secondary attorneys’ render.

The right for the qualified legal aid is among constitutional rights. Part 3 of article 40 of the Kyrgyz Republic Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right to qualified legal aid. In cases indicated in laws, the legal aid is provided by the government for free. However in reality, it is often declarative as the activity of those who provide qualified legal aid remain unregulated, they lack proper funding. There is insufficient attention of the government to this matter in general.

Contact Information

Widening access to justice for legal empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic project of UNDP and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. Project coordinator Ainura Alymbekova  Tel.: +996 (312) 694381 (ext. 145), Fax: +996 (312) 694363 ainura.alymbekova@undp.org.

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