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news | November 16, 2016 | Kyrgyzstan | Development

Building synergies for better access to justice in Kyrgyzstan

Representatives of CSOs brainstorming on how to improve access to state guaranteed legal aid for vulnerable population

Access to justice is frequently regarded as a “bedrock of human rights protection”. Without it our right to equality before the law is compromised, and we are left unable to enforce any of the other important human rights that we possess. Yet vulnerable and disadvantaged population, especially in remote areas, is heavily unaware of its rights to redress and judicial remedy.

Multi-Sectoral Approach to Improving Access to Justice

To address this issue, ACTED has been working since 2015 to improve access to justice for the most disadvantaged population in the remote and isolated areas of Kyrgyzstan. The European Union funded project, “Building the role of civil society to improve access to justice and strengthen the Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic”, aims at improving access to justice for the vulnerable populations and raising their awareness on legal aid, including para-legal support provided by crisis centers, women councils and other civil society actors. To achieve this, ACTED, together with its partners Adilet Legal Clinic and Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia (EFCA), brings together civil society representatives, legal practitioners and local officials with the aim of enhancing their knowledge on legal aid and developing multi-sectorial solutions to improve access to justice in Kyrgyzstan.

Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.


Carving Out Roadmaps for the Future

Twenty-five civil society activists, lawyers and local officials from justice institutions of Osh and Jalal-Abad regions came together between 3rd and 5th October 2016 to analyze the state of human rights in Kyrgyzstan. During a three-day training organized by ACTED in cooperation with Adilet Legal Clinic and EFCA in Osh city, participants discussed the challenges vulnerable population faces in their day-to-day lives and explored strategies to improve their human rights situation.

A significant part of the workshop focused on the right to fair trial and access to justice for vulnerable populations in Kyrgyzstan. ACTED and Adilet trainers sensitized the participants on Kyrgyzstan’s legal framework on access to justice with a particular focus on state-guaranteed legal aid. In addition to this, attendees had a chance to get an expert option on the new Bill on State-Guaranteed Legal Aid aiming to improve access to free legal counsel for vulnerable populations. To create a greater understanding of the matter, participants took part in mock trials, stepping into the roles of juggles, defense lawyers and ombudsmen. To give the workshop a more practical turn, participants were also encouraged to share their experience in delivering free legal aid to disadvantaged and marginalized populations. Equipped with this knowledge, civil society actors, legal practitioners and local officials sat together to brainstorm how the access to justice and free legal aid can be improved in their respective regions.

As a result of the brainstorming, participants built synergies to develop cross-sectorial roadmaps for Osh and Jalal-Abad regions on improving the knowledge on and access to legal assistance for vulnerable populations. The detailed roadmaps will serve for strengthening the ties between the civil society and state institutions in improving the right to legal counsel for the vulnerable populations in Kyrgyzstan.