First Regional Policy Dialogue Meeting Discusses State-Funded Free Legal Aid

Oct 7, 2015

Topic: Establishment of State Free Legal Aid System.

Khujand, Tajikistan October 7, 2015. The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan has hosted Tajikistan’s first Regional Policy Dialogue meeting. The meeting took place in Khujand on October 7, and had a thematic focus on the establishment of a state-run system of free legal aid.

The First deputy of Sugd region governor Mr. Rustam Rahmatzod welcomed all participants and high level repsetantives of state institutions who joined the meeting to introduce and share the expereince from the National Rule of Law Policy Dialogue. The Minister of Justice, Mr. Rustam Shohmurod, moderated the meeting who noted that while four Policy Dialogues have already taken place in Dushanbe on national level, this was the first Policy Dialogue to be held outside of the capital.

The topic of the meeting was the establishment of a national system of free legal aid. A system of free legal aid already exists, but it is funded and administered by donors. The Government of Tajikistan has committed to taking over this system. At the meeting, two presentations were made. The first presentation, made by Mr. Jonibek Kholikzoda (Head of the Legislation Unit of the Ministry of Justice) was devoted to an overview of the identified options for piloting the new system of state legal aid. In its presentation, the Ministry of Justice emphasized the significance of having a state-run free legal aid system run by state due to the high national poverty rate, the weak existing legal aid system for disadvantaged people, and the low legal awareness of the population, especially among vulnerable groups. It was also emphasized that the state legal aid system will serve as a bridge between state and people to enhance trust in the judicial system and other state bodies.

The second presentation was delivered by two prominent NGOs, “Bureau of Human Rights” and “Inis”. The NGOs discussed some of the lessons and challenges from the current system of legal aid, along with recommendations for changes to legislation and policy. They then shared their experience using paralegals. (These are non-lawyers who are trained to help with basic legal problems; they are serving mostly in rural areas.) Although, the accessibility to justice and legal awareness of rural people have been improved by training and deploying paralegals, there is a need for state system to coordinate paralegals’ activities.

As a result, the Ministry of Justice thanked the NGOs for sharing the advantages and disadvantages of their own experience in providing legal aid and welcomed a close partnership for successful piloting of the free legal aid system. It was agreed that future regional policy dialogues will take place in three other regions of Tajikistan.

The meeting was hosted by local regional government under the chairmanship of the Ministry of Justice under the leadership of His Excellency Minister of Justice, Mr. Rustam Shohmurod. This high level meeting was attended by the state Institutions and CSOs dealing with Legal Aid and Rule of Law issues, namely the Minister of Justice, Executive Office of the President, the Chairman of the Supreme Economic Court, the Chairman of the Council of Justice, the head of the Legislation and Human Rights Committee from Parliament, the Ombudsman of the Republic of as well as by local NGOs, namely “Bureau of Human Rights”, “Gulrukhsor”, “Inis” and “Khurshedi Zindagi”. From the donor's, side the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNDP have also attended the meeting.

The Policy Dialogue is an initiative facilitated by the UNDP Rule of Law and Access to Justice Programme. The Dushanbe-centered Policy Dialogues have been financed by Swiss Cooperation Office; the Regional Policy Dialogues will be funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Contact informationAlisher Karimov, UNDP Programme Manager: +992 93 9999 299; alisher.karimov@undp.org

 

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