At Sokuluk FLA Center. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

On July 21 - 22, 2020, the Bar Council of the Kyrgyz Republic held two webinars for lawyers from Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. These events were supported by the MFA of Finland - UNDP project "Towards a sustainable access to justice for legal empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic".

During the first webinar - "Interaction of SGLA (State Guaranteed Legal Aid) Lawyers with the coordinators of the Center for Coordination of State-Guaranteed Legal Aid (CC SGLA) during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Compliance with the Quality Practice Standards of Lawyers", participants discussed the major problems, experienced by Lawyers during state of emergency in Kyrgyzstan. Elina Jylysheva, SGLA Lawyer, and a member of the Chui Oblast Bar Association, expressed her view, that Lawyers have to balance between constitutional values - the right to life and health - and, on the other hand, the right to compitent legal assistance.

It was noted at the webinar, that during the state of emergency period the SGLA Lawyers provided legal aid to more than 700 citizens. Assistance was provided through telephone lines and messengers, with a total number of 205 free consultations during the period. Also, on May 1, with the support of UNDP Kyrgyzstan, the hotline 112 was expanded for legal consultations, and until June 15, 305 free consultations were provided to the population.

The second webinar "Legal Aid in state of emergency during the COVID-19 Pandemic, International Experience" was attended by lawyers from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Participants shared their experience and ideas on adaptation to the pandemic. Gulnara Amiraeva, a Lawyer from Kyrgyzstan, expressed her idea of establishing electronic offices within the Justice system. "Launching of the platform such as an electronic courtroom, and the Lawyers' office would lead to modern and timely defence and counseling. I understand that this may be difficult, but such an introduction would be very useful", - she said.

Gulnara Amiraeva, a Lawyer from Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Screenshot from Zoom meeting.

Yusuf Kayumov, an Attorney from the Republic of Tajikistan, shared his experience of how, without the proclamation of the state of emergency, Layers faced restrictive measures in their practice, including due to the illness of Judges and Lawyers. He underlined that unfortunately there is no widespread transfer of work to online regime in Tajikistan, which is, among other reasons, connected to the high cost of the Internet.

Angelica Rakhimberdina, an attorney from the Republic of Kazakhstan and a member of the Board of the “Central Asia League of Lawyers” Public Association, spoke about work of Lawyers during the emergency period: "It was important for the Bar not to interrupt the provision of qualified legal aid under the new circumstances, when it was essential to ensure the right to life and health of citizens. At the same time, due to the loss of income, like other citizens of Kazakhstan, Lawyers were entitled to apply for social benefits, as well as tax exemptions and online work format".

Akzhol Kalbekov, a director of FLA Centers in Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Altynai Akmatova

Both events were aimed at establishing effective interaction between the SGLA Lawyers and the CC SGLA; as a result, recommendations were made to the Bar Council of the Kyrgyz Republic, CC SGLA to hold regular meetings and enhance the interaction of the CC SGLA coordinators with the Territorial Bar Associations.

Participants recognized the value of webinars as a platform for discussing current working issues and expressing solidarity and mutual support during the pandemic. 

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