Kyrgyzstan - annual report 2019

Visit of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe: Prof. Henning Radtke (centre), Judge at the Federal Constitutional Court, and Emil Oskonbaev (to the right), Vice-Chair of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic
Visit of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe: Prof. Henning Radtke (centre), Judge at the Federal Constitutional Court, and Emil Oskonbaev (to the right), Vice-Chair of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Kyrgyzstan enjoys the most highly developed structures that promote democracy and the rule of law in the Central Asian region and has a young, active civil society.

The parliamentary system has withstood several political crises in recent years. Most recently, the country‘s political stability was put again to a hard test in 2019. The power struggle between the former and incumbent presidents, which was played out in public for over a year, reached its peak when Almasbek Atambaev‘s status as ex-president was revoked and he was arrested in August 2019. These unfolding events created significant unrest and threatened the country‘s stability in the eyes of many people.

In addition to the difficult domestic political situation, the state leadership faces many other challenges: It must push ahead with democratisation and reform processes, modernise administrative structures, boost the economy and combat pervasive corruption.

By contrast, there has been considerable progress in the area of Kyrgyzstan‘s judicial reform. The Ministry of Justice, for example, has been completely detached from the judiciary and, unlike in other countries, no longer has any influence in matters of judicial administration. Instead, a large number of new judicial institutions has been created and all the tasks assigned to the judiciary were distributed among them. Following the official declaration of 2019 as the year of digitalisation and regional development by the incumbent President Sooronbai Cheenbekov, increasing digitalisation also took place in the judicial system during the reporting year. It is one of the decisive factors to improve transparency and efficiency in this area. However, at the same time, the judicial system continues to face many problems. These include, to name just a few, the weak court infrastructure, the lack of professionalism within legal professions and inefficient cooperation between the authorities, as well as the poor level of reputation among the general population.

In May 2019, the Council of the EU presented its vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia in Bishkek and updated its strategy for relations with the region, which were first defined in 2007. Germany provided important and substantive contributions in this regard and it will continue to deliver committed support to achieve the newly defined goals for greater democracy and the rule of law. In spring 2019, Kyrgyz President Jeenbekov paid a two-day official state visit to Germany in recognition of the close partnership between the countries and of Germany‘s special role.

Overall Concept

In addition to the junior partnership in the EU-funded project “Promotion of Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic“, IRZ continued its bilateral expert dialogue with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court in 2019.

The still young constitutional court jurisdiction, which faces some criticism in the country, is fighting for its existence and is particularly dependent on international support. Responding to this need, IRZ organised a study trip to Germany for Kyrgyz constitutional judges for an intensive exchange of constitutional law issues with German colleagues at federal and state level. A highlight of the visit was the expert talk at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on the special characteristics and role of a constitutional court within modern democratic country based on the rule of law. During this expert talk, the 70th anniversary of the Basic Law and the related achievements and experiences in Germany were honoured. The discussion also focused on practical questions and examples of how the Federal Constitutional Court works.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Study trip by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic to Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Heidelberg on strengthening the constitution and principles of an effective legal protection system

Basic and Further Training

  • First participation of a judge in the internship programme for English-speaking civil and commercial judges in Königswinter

Project funded by the European Union

EU Grant project: The Rule of Law Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic 2nd phase (ROLPRO2)

Scheduled to run until 2022, the project to promote the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan entered its second phase in May 2018. The project builds largely on the results of the first phase (which started in 2014) and also addresses new topics. Joining several other consortium partners under the leadership of GIZ, IRZ is participating in the project with two longterm experts, who receive support from short-term experts.

The consortium partners have divided the extensive areas of responsibility into three components:

  • Component 1: Modernisation of the legislative procedure
  • Component 2: Support for the judiciary/court system
  • Component 3: Support for the Public Prosecutor‘s Office

The German organisations GIZ and IRZ have accepted priority tasks in the first two components.

During 2019, the project reached important milestones in the areas of e-justice and court administration. Among other things, the electronic file and court information system “AIS Suda“ was rolled out nationwide at all courts of first instance; its introduction at second instance courts has also begun. In addition, the judiciary opened its own data centre for the secure operation of system-critical judiciary applications. In the area of court administration and court management, the focus has been on developing a system for the evaluation of judges, training for managers and improving the informational content of court statistics.

For the legislation component, a website for public consultation on draft legislation has been developed, and a pilot version is already online. Several advertising campaigns and training measures in this regard are planned for 2020. An additional feature is the procurement of hardware required by the Ministry of Justice in this context. Progress was also made in the digitalisation of the legislative procedure, the creation of working tools and a cooperation platform for joint legislative work.

The work results achieved in 2019 will make an important contribution to increasing the effectiveness of judicial administration, strengthening the transparency and credibility of the judiciary and combating corruption.

Outlook

In the coming year, IRZ will work with its existing partners to identify suitable measures that complement the content priorities of the EU project.

Kyrgyzstan - annual report 2018

Anniversary Conference of the Constitutional Chamber in Bishkek: Erkinbek Mamyrov (1st row, centre), Chair of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court; Winfried Schubert, former President of the Regional Constitutional Court and the Higher Regional Court (1st row, 2nd from the left)
Anniversary Conference of the Constitutional Chamber in Bishkek: Erkinbek Mamyrov (1st row, centre), Chair of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court; Winfried Schubert, former President of the Regional Constitutional Court and the Higher Regional Court (1st row, 2nd from the left)

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The second smallest country in Central Asia continues to face the challenge of transitioning into a state under the rule of law. Introduced 2010, the Constitution defines Kyrgyzstan as a parliamentary democracy. A constitutional amendment in 2016 strengthened the rights of parliament and government. The free and peaceful election of the State President in 2017 – by no means a self-evidence in the region contributed to political stability. Many inadequacies in the legal reality persist nevertheless. The separation of powers has not been embraced in the fullest sense, while deeply entrenched power structures, inadequate efficiency of state institutions and attempts to influence the judiciary present obstacles to the country‘s emergence as a modern state that grants constitutional guarantees.

Many bi- and multilateral stakeholders are assisting in stabilising the country, among them the EU, which in 2019 will start implementation of its Strategy for Central Asia in the legal and judicial fields, also.

Overall Concept

The IRZ began its work in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 and since then has conducted advisory measures with the Ministry of Justice, parliament, the relatively young Kyrgyz Bar and the General Prosecutor´s Office. Its activities aim to professionalise capacities, discuss best practices and to provide advice on various prioritised legal areas.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan celebrated its 25th anniversary in the reporting year and marked the occasion by hosting an international conference. On the request of the Chair of the Chamber, the IRZ sent the former President of the Regional Constitutional Court of Saxony-Anhalt and the Higher Regional Court of Saxony-Anhalt, as a speaker. It was pleasing to note that the conference provided plenty of opportunity for discussions between Constitutional Court judges from eleven countries, as well as representatives of the Venice Commission. These talks addressed current national issues relating to the different constitutions and the role of the Constitutional Court. German constitutional law, the Federal Constitutional Court and its rulings were significant topics of discussion. A lecture on the independence of the judiciary to students at the Kyrgyzstan State Law Academy reflected this interest further more.

The IRZ fulfilled a request from the Ministry of Justice by holding an expert discussion on international contract design, especially for loans from development banks. The German representatives communicated relevant standards and empirical findings acquired in Germany and offered advice on contract design and negotiation strategies for the preservation of state interests.

In addition to the bilateral projects, the IRZ also acts as junior partner in the EU Grant “Promotion of Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic“, which will continue for another four and a half years.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Dispatch to Bishkek of an expert on constitutional law to the Anniversary Conference of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court
  • Lecture on constitutional law at the Kyrgyzstan State Law Academy in Bishkek

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Round table and workshop on international contract law with the Ministry of Justice in Bishkek

Project funded by the European Union

EU Grant project: The Rule of Law Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic – 2nd phase (ROLPRO2)

The EU has funded a large-scale project to promote the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan since 2014. The project entered its second phase in May 2018 and, now scheduled to run until 2022, was elevated to a higher programme level; the content areas were also widened. In the consortium led by GIZ and including other consortium partners, the IRZ continues to participate with two long-term experts who receive support from short-term experts in order to address specific technical issues.

The consortium partners have divided the extensive areas of responsibility into three components: modernisation of the legislative procedure (component 1), support for the judiciary/court system (component 2) and support for the Public Prosecutor‘s Office (component 3). Within this framework, the German organisations GIZ and IRZ have mainly been assigned priority areas belonging to the 1st and 2nd components, which also involve sweeping reforms of administrative law. The reform efforts of the Kyrgyz Government and the state institutions, which are supported by the project, are directed towards increasing the effectiveness of judicial administration, creating transparency and credibility within judicial and court structures as well as fighting corruption.

Outlook

The IRZ will continue to implement advisory measures that build on efforts within the EU project and in doing so will apply proven formats that prioritise the transfer of know-how and practical utility.

The second phase of the EU project will widen the programme objectives and will now, as a separate priority field, seek to strengthen the Public Prosecutor‘s Office, in addition to promoting the rule of law within the judiciary and court system and providing support within the area of legislative procedure. Three pilot projects for the introduction of an electronic court file administration system deserve special mention in the wider area of e-justice. There are plans to offer programme support during the 2nd phase of the project, which will involve successive implementation of the system at all courts. In addition, the project team has commenced preparations for digitisation of the legislative procedure.

Kyrgyzstan - annual report 2017

Participants of the presentation of the Handbook for Presiding Judges of Courts of First Instance on Practical Issues of Court Administration as part of the EU Project in Bishkek: Ajnasch Tokbaeva, President of the Supreme Court (first row centre) with Presiding Judges and long term as well as short term experts of the EU Grant Project
Participants of the presentation of the Handbook for Presiding Judges of Courts of First Instance on Practical Issues of Court Administration as part of the EU Project in Bishkek: Ajnasch Tokbaeva, President of the Supreme Court (first row centre) with Presiding Judges and long term as well as short term experts of the EU Grant Project

Legal Policy Situation

The presidential election in October was the most important domestic political event in Kyrgyzstan in the year under review. Despite some criticism from international election observers, the electoral process was competitive in character including, contrary to previous concerns, a peaceful transfer of power living up to democratic standards. The social democrat and former head of government Sooronbay Jeenbekov won the presidential election.

As a parliamentary republic, Kyrgyzstan continues to stand out in contrast to its neighbouring countries of autocratic character in Central Asia. The political situation, however, is by no means stable. Many members of the government resigned in the year under review. The economic crisis persists, and the country is still a long way away from an ethnically and religiously balanced society featuring reliable democratic mechanisms. Although the transition to a modern democratic state can be perceived on many levels, it will still take a long time.

Despite the reform efforts, the judicial system continues to suffer from serious shortcomings and is not held in high esteem by the population. Professionalism in the exercise of legal professions needs to be increased; the modern infrastructure of courts and authorities needs to be expanded; consolidating procedures of the rule of law and reducing corruption are stated aims. The IRZ provides international consultation both bilaterally and within the framework of implementing the large-scale EU grant project “Promotion of Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic”, in which the IRZ is involved as a junior partner.

Overall Concept

In recent years, the IRZ’s bilateral activities have focused on supporting Kyrgyz lawyers, which have undergone a process of change and self-management since the “Law on the Legal Profession” came into effect three years ago.

A well-established rule of law provides for strong, independent lawyers. They play a crucial role in ensuring access to justice. Advising and representing clients does not only require sound legal expertise but also the sensitive and appreciative handling of people and their concerns, of colleagues, of courts and of institutions involved in litigation. The rapid digital development is increasingly affecting the legal advice market and is also posing new challenges for Kyrgyz lawyers.

Thus, a need arose for advice on the fundamentals of press and public relations work for Kyrgyz lawyers due to the frequent unprofessional handling of Kyrgyz media by the lawyers, both due to uncooperative and ethically questionable statements in social networks, and due to circulating or publishing confidential client information via social networks or the media. At a seminar in Bishkek, German experts shared their expertise on handling modern media professionally by examining numerous practical examples and discussing them with the participants in addition to lectures.

For the first time, a delegation of the Bar of the Kyrgyz Republic had the opportunity to participate in the 3rd International Lawyers Forum on the subject of “Independence of self-regulation – A Lawyer’s issue” as part of a study trip on practical questions of the legal profession in Berlin. This has made an important contribution to strengthening international contacts among Kyrgyz lawyers and, in particular, to exchanging expertise with colleagues from various countries.

A first joint event with the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek facilitated an exchange between staff of the Kyrgyz Parliament and German experts on the course of legislative procedure, including evaluation and regulatory impact assessment. Under active involvement of the participants, the latter was carried out and analysed based on parts of a Kyrgyz law that had previously been translated into German. During the evaluation, detrimental aspects in the implementation of the regulations were illustrated. It was thus possible to create a trusting atmosphere that enabled Kyrgyz listeners to address matters that were important to them and to seek a lively exchange among colleagues.

Foci of Activity 2017

Administration of Justice

  • Study trip by a delegation of the Kyrgyz Bar on practical questions of the legal profession and participation in “Independence of self-regulation – A Lawyers issue”, the 3 rd International Lawyers Forum of the German Federal Bar in Berlin
  • Workshop for the Bar of the Kyrgyz Republic on the topic of communication and information policy, press and public relations work and the public image of the Bar including internet and social media usage in Bishkek

Public Law

  • Workshop on legislative procedure and regulatory impact assessment with the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek

Project financed by the European Union

EU Grant Project: Promotion of Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic

The project with a budget volume of EUR 9.5 million has been implemented by a consortium led by the GIZ since 2014. The IRZ participates as a junior partner with two long-term experts who work in the fields of court organisation, e-justice and legislation. The team of long-term experts is supported by short-term experts from Germany and other European countries in this context.

The aim of the project is to reinforce the rule of law in the justice and the court system. The reform efforts of the Kyrgyz Government and the state institutions, which are supported by the project, are directed towards increasing the effectiveness of judicial administration, creating transparency and credibility within judicial and court structures as well as fighting corruption. The main areas of focus of the IRZ component comprise the modernisation of the operation of the courts, including the introduction of a system of electronic files and court information and court management (e-justice), as well as legislative reforms.

In the last year of the project, activities focused mainly on the implementation of previously developed improvement measures and training courses for legal practitioners, also including a practical orientation. In the year under review, another study trip was organised for ten Kyrgyz legislative experts to Berlin and Potsdam. In total, the IRZ component has provided further training for more than 300 members of the civil service, lawyers and university lecturers in the field of legislative technique during the project’s term thus far.

In the field of judicial administration, extensive expertise was provided for a working group developing an evaluation system for judges. In the summer of the year under review, a draft of the new system, including the legal acts required for its implementation, could be presented as a result. It is currently being reviewed. Furthermore, the project contributed greatly to developing and publishing a handbook for presidents of courts dealing with practical questions of judicial administration, which will also serve as a basis for training measures in the future. On the subject of e-justice, the introduction of an electronic court file management system at three pilot courts deserves a mention. The project team has also successfully advised the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic on drafting a handbook on the legal formality of sub-legislative norms and has begun preparations for the digitisation of the legislative process.

After project completion in April 2018, a second four-and-a-half-year phase with IRZ participation is planned. Here, the above-mentioned and additional focus areas will be professionally enlarged and expanded upon.

Outlook

The IRZ intends to continue the cooperation with established project partners, to strengthen the awareness of fundamentals of the rule of law in legislative procedure and the application of the law. In order to achieve long-term success in providing advice, there will be a continued focus on practice-oriented training of the respective legal practitioners.

Following the EU project “Promotion of Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic” the focus will continue to be on supporting legal reforms and promoting the rule of law throughout the Kyrgyz judiciary. Within the framework of individual activities, the aim is to strengthen the competences of the central judicial institutions by providing those in charge with practical knowledge, concrete instruments and sound expertise in order to make the legislative process more efficient and to improve the functioning of judicial structures in the long run.