A herd of cows belonging to Bakyt Azizov has trampled over land belonging to Aybek Isaev. As a result, Mr. Isaev’s future oats harvest has been partly compromised. Mr. Isaev is now claiming from Mr. Azizov 85,600 Kyrgyzstani som (US$ 1,340) in compensation, divided as follows: direct damage – 7,100 som; profit lost – 48,500 som; moral damages – 25,000 som; and lawyer’s fees – 5,000 som.
Such is the premise of the pilot episode of an IDLO-produced television series, aimed at popularizing civil arbitration among the Kyrgyz public while increasing knowledge about the functions of the judiciary. For this initiative, IDLO partnered with a local media producer; earlier this year, filming of the pilot of Achyk-Aikyn began. The program dramatizes typical disputes arising between Kyrgyz citizens, e.g. involving property, and will be broadcast on Kyrgyz national television.
As Dilbara Maksimbekova, a retired Kyrgyz judge, explains, “the literal translation of Achyk-Aikyn is Openness and Transparency – it implies both ease of access and a frank consideration of the issues at stake, of the court’s conclusions and the way the ruling is made.”
Transparency and openness are built into our judicial strategy
The TV show is one of a number of legal education innovations in a country that has struggled to establish a trusting relationship between its courts and its people. Corruption; underfunding; lack of judicial authority; poor transparency: all have blighted the post-Soviet nation’s judicial system. All problems echoed by one judge interviewed in Bishkek: “Our main challenges to date have been insufficient financing, a lack of security for the courts, and the poor conditions we have had to work in. For example, we have had incidents of angry crowds occupying courthouses to protest against specific rulings. Our objectives are therefore to secure independence for the courts, and financial, logistical and technical support.”
In addition to the TV show, the IDLO team in Kyrgyzstan has also been working with information technology – or e-justice – solutions to improve access to justice and accountability within the judiciary. Helping reduce opportunities for corrupt practices and increase transparency under the USAID-IDLO Kyrgyzstan Judicial Strengthening Program, the team has assisted the Kyrgyz Supreme Court in creating and rolling out an automated, random case assignment system. The first module of this system became operational this summer, with over 2,000 cases entered into the database for processing.
Also under this initiative, courts have been provided with computers and internet connections, allowing them access to a dedicated portal for publishing judicial decisions in real time, www.sot.kg. “Transparency and openness are built into our judicial strategy. Any citizen can visit www.sot.kg and follow up their case,” explains Dastanbai Aidjigitov of Chui District Court. By June, IDLO had trained 166 judges and court staff to use the system.
Our initiatives are tailored to local realities
Earlier in 2015, the team also handed over an automated document flow management system to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Welcoming its introduction, Mukambet Kasymaliev, Chairman of the Chamber, expressed confidence that it would ‘increase the efficiency and quality of case management’.
To support all of the above, IDLO additionally helped the Court Department establish a dedicated IT enterprise, which is already providing assistance to the entire Kyrgyz judiciary.
Beyond reform of the judiciary, IDLO’s work in Kyrgyzstan more broadly seeks to improve the rule of law and access to justice for sustainable peace. With support from UNDP and the Peace Building Fund, IDLO has facilitated the creation of an ambitious ICT-based platform to stimulate dialogue between the public and the government of Kyrgyzstan on peace- and stability-related issues. This dialogue will form the basis of detailed policy recommendations.
“While initiatives such as these are often described as innovative, the priority remains that they be tailored to local realities, with local stakeholders involved both in their design and their implementation,” stresses Anna Koppel, IDLO’s Senior Program Coordinator for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “This is what makes our initiatives dynamic and sustainable.”