Kyrgyzstan: Judicial reform aims to restore public confidence
- Written by Maria Levina
BISHKEK (TCA) — In order to seize the property of foreign citizens and investors in Kyrgyzstan, some judges make illegal decisions in the interests of organized criminal groups. Such phenomena decrease the investment attractiveness of the state, block foreign investment and cause great damage to the country’s economy, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said at a meeting of the Judicial Reform Council on December 27.
The Council discussed the implementation of the President’s decree on measures taken as part of the ongoing judicial reform and new bills in this area.
From January 1, 2019, five new codes and two laws will come into force in Kyrgyzstan. The new codes provide for the introduction of new institutions such as the Unified Register, the investigating judge, the digitization of the investigative offices and courtrooms, and probation. Successful judicial and legal reform will directly depend on the work of these institutions.
“People’s confidence in the judiciary will be restored,” the President said. He explained the peculiarities of the current reform. Earlier, the judicial and legal reforms were carried out separately while they will be implemented together from 2019. It is impossible to consider them separately, Jeenbekov added.
On the President’s initiative, an expert working group was established to monitor the activities of the judicial and legal reform in May.
“According to the WG, this work is still hampered by our old-fashioned thinking. Law enforcement and supervisory authorities do not want to abandon the old repressive laws, and some government agencies lack the political will to carry out the reform,” the President said.
The Government and Parliament are late in adopting certain very relevant laws. The reform’s preparatory stage has been completed, and the time has come to work in the new legal space from January 1, 2019, he added.
The reform should change the population’s attitude to the authorities, including the judiciary.
“Our people waited for this reform for a long time. The revolutions of 2005 and 2010 occurred due to the lack of such reforms and because of corruption and injustice,” Jeenbekov said.
When the codes come into force, the courts and investigators will have much more work. Not very serious crimes have been removed from the Criminal Code and transferred to the Code of Misdemeanors. They are not considered crimes now. The new code does not provide for the imprisonment of those who have committed minor crimes, the President explained.
“For instance, the Сode imposes fines and correctional works for those who had stolen a bicycle, TV set, or a chicken. Sentences for certain types of crimes will be reduced. The society should educate criminals, but not just punish them,” he said.
There is no practice of applying the new laws in the country. Therefore, law enforcement, control and judicial authorities, together with the monitoring working group, should analyze the practice of applying new laws, travel to all regions of the country and hold meetings.
People often complaint about the work of judicial and law enforcement bodies.
“Our citizens are mostly dissatisfied with court decisions and the behavior of judges. Unfair decisions of judges excite the public and cause dissatisfaction of citizens,” Jeenbekov said.
Citizens also began to complain more about the Supreme Court judges, saying they unreasonably cancel the decisions of local courts and return them for reconsideration. The unreasonable delay in trials cause great criticism, said the head of state citing several cases.
The President told about the civil case of a person who appealed to him. The simplest, ordinary civil case has been delayed since 2013 until now. The Supreme Court considered it four times and did not make decision, sending it for reconsideration. In addition, the Chui Regional Court made the wrong decision in this case, making mistakes. Then the court spent time correcting them. As a result, the case has lasted five years.
Focus on human rights
The current judicial and legal reform has positive differences from the previous attempts, said Gulmira Mamatkerimova, a Judicial and Legal Reform Council member.
The reform is focused on human rights and the rule of law. If it is implemented in the coming years, there will be no more powerlessness and judicial and police arbitrariness that occur now.
In 2019, a working group will be established to draft new amendments to the codes. Reform task groups should be created in the relevant state bodies to train specialists in the regions.
The International Business Council based in Bishkek developed a package of proposals to improve the judicial system and ensure the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan and submitted it to the Government. Several proposals were included in the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the Judicial System Development Program of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2022.
IBC Executive Director Askar Sydykov voiced the opinion of the business community on this issue at the meeting of President Jeenbekov with the business community on September 17. In June 2018, the Government opened a special account for financial proceeds from the fight against corruption.
"Now the account is being actively replenished but we would not want this to turn into extortion of money from the business," Sydykov said.
There is a rule according to which a certain percentage of funds recovered in favor of the State as a result of judicial acts in criminal cases initiated by law enforcement and supervisory authorities should be transferred in favor of such a body. To get such money, security bodies initiated and submitted to the judicial bodies cases on business issues without sufficient legal grounds.
The IBC proposed to consider alternative methods of encouraging the work of law enforcement agencies without collecting money from private business entities.
Transparency of courts
To ensure the independence of judges, the business association proposed to limit the intervention of state bodies in the activities of courts.
Fearing to be dismissed or prosecuted, judges have currently to follow the instructions of higher courts and other state bodies. When considering tax disputes that may lead to a substantial replenishment of the state budget, judges, fearing of dissatisfaction of state bodies, make decisions in favor of the State, often in the absence of legal grounds.
According to surveys, about 90 percent of tax disputes in courts were decided in favor of the state, which undermines public confidence.
To increase the transparency of the courts, IBC proposed to oblige judges to post electronic version of all materials on economic cases decided or under consideration, including evidence, copies of contracts and other documents not containing secrets protected by the law.
The IBC also proposed to conduct audio recording of court sessions along with paper protocols using audio recording media (voice recorder, mobile phone, etc.). The introduction of audio recordings does not entail significant financial costs and is an effective way of recording court proceedings to avoid errors and inaccuracies in written protocols. Audio recordings should be attached to written protocols and posted on the websites of the courts.
At the Judicial Reform Council meeting, President Jeenbekov stressed the need to complete the work on equipping all courtrooms with audio and video equipment for recording protocols as soon as possible.