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AKIPRESS.COM - The judiciary system shall be reformed and improved constantly in line with the latest developments, Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, a Chief Technical Adviser on Rule of Law for UNDP, told AKIpress in an interview.
- What is your assessment of the judiciary reform process in the Kyrgyz Republic? What possibly hinders it?
The judiciary reform process is a very complex one and cannot be solved overnight.
There is a not a point where one can clearly state that the reform is done and we have to stop it. The system shall be reformed and improved constantly in line with the latest developments in the field and most importantly to meet the increasing citizens’ demand.
I see several difficulties emerging which in my view are positive symptoms of a fruitful discussion. In general, judicial reforms are the most complicated ones in all countries for two reasons. Firstly, they are involving many authorities; secondly, they are involving authorities that cannot be linked by any hierarchy such as the example of the Judiciary, which needs to remain independent in the interpretation of the Laws. This ensures checks and balances, a crucial element of a truly democratic governance.
- What have the powers holders achieved via the judiciary reform process?
I think that important steps have been done in the process of selection of Judges with the inclusion of civil society as well as some improvements in the understanding of the need to bring Justice closer to the citizens. If we look at the Law on State guaranteed legal aid it also provides the possibility for free legal assistance in civil cases not only criminal ones. This is not enough though there is a ong way ahead of us.
Entire judiciary reform process is taking place on the basis of strategic documents, namely the Decree of the President on improving the justice institutions, the state program on the reform of the judiciary, assigning key objectives of the process, tasks to be completed by all the stakeholders involved and many other no less important aspects. This is highly important and ensures that the process is taking place systematically.
However, despite the fact, that the reform process is taking place ever since April 2010 events, no effective public monitoring of the progress made was carried out. To solve this matter, UNDP’s Rule of Law project, supported by the British Embassy to the Kyrgyz Republic has provided technical and expert assistance to civil society organizations to analyze what was done exactly, whether the aforementioned state program was achieved and to what degree and most importantly, the work relied in providing recommendations to the policy makers in ensuring the success of the reform process. Preliminary results of the monitoring was presented to the public and key policy makers in the area last March, generating good level of discussion and discourse.
Such works needs to be carried out regularly, both the state and the civil society institutions need to cooperate closely in achieving justice and in the reform of the public sector at large.
- What shall be done in order to make the judiciary branch of power truly independent?
A lot of things need to be done to make the judiciary truly independent in Kyrgyzstan as well as in many other countries. I would start from improving the budget to the institution passing by an increased support to the training and facilities, as well as a support to the Prosecution and the Defense attorneys system. However, I really care to underline that the independence of the Judiciary is a mean not an end itself, the independence is for the purpose of interpreting the Laws without any fear or influence. For all the rest the Judiciary remains like everybody else dependent and accountable to the Laws, just like all citizens.
- In your opinion, what new legislation shall be introduced to push the reform process further?
The UNDP, in cooperation with a number of other donor organizations have been working hard in supporting the development of a package of progressive laws within the judiciary legal reform process.
The package of draft laws include the new editions of the Criminal, Criminal procedure, Criminal executive, Civil procedural code, Code on administrative offences, laws on “Enforcement procedures and status of court bailiffs,” “Guaranteed state legal aid,” as well as laws on improving accountability of the judges”.
Almost all of these laws have recently passed the third reading in the Parliament and are now with the President. If implemented, these laws will introduce drastic changes to the judiciary system of the country, ranging from creating new institutions, such as Institute of Probation to ensuring that all the citizens will be entitled to free legal aid provided by the state. This is especially important for the vulnerable groups of our society.
I would also like to add, that our project has introduced completely new tool to ensure the realization of the laws, namely the development of the implementation plans. Such plans were already developed for all of the aforementioned laws and clearly state what exactly needs to be done to ensure that this or that norm is implemented, who should do it and when. This is of tremendous importance that adopted laws do not stay on paper, but go out to the field and bring positive changes to peoples’ lives.
- What steps shall be concretely taken to fight the corruption in the judiciary system?
The fight against corruption is everybody’s task not only the one of Law enforcement officials. For sure lots needs to be done in preventing the corruptive phenomenon through passing precise legislation but most of all we all need to work on improving the legal culture and the respect towards the Rule of Law. A corruption-free State is not the one where the Laws are bullet proof from briberies, but a State where citizens believe in the value of respecting the Laws without the fear of being caught. As it has been proved many times corruption makes everybody poorer, yet it still exists. We need therefore to improve the legal culture of the citizens and I am very encouraged by the new draft text on the subject prepared by the Ministry of Justice.
It is not going to be neither an easy nor fast process but the development of a true democratic state unavoidably passes thorough this process.