“All rise! The court is now in session.” These are words that law students in the Kyrgyz Republic are used to hearing from television shows or films, but now, through mock court courses being implemented under the IDLO-USAID Judicial Strengthening Program in Kyrgyzstan in collaboration with two universities in Bishkek, they are able to say themselves as active participants in mock trial court-rooms set up for them at the Kyrgyz State University (KSU) and Kyrgyz Russian Slavonic University (KRSU).
Co-taught jointly by retired judges and professors of criminal and civil law and procedure, the courses have been developed, through a close collaboration between IDLO and these universities, to ensure that law students gain not just theoretical knowledge but also hands-on, practical legal skills, such as delivery of oral arguments, reasoning through a judgment, and interacting with witnesses and defendants.
For the spring 2016 semester, students, working closely with their instructors, chose the following mock trial scenarios: one civil dispute in relation to a debt and two criminal matters on the selection of pre-trial measures in a drug-related case and a full trial on involuntary manslaughter.
Direct participation in a mock trial not only gives the students an opportunity to understand procedural law first-hand, but also increases their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the various actors in a court proceeding.
“This is a very important course, interesting and informative. If I compare our group of students with those that didn’t take part in a mock trial course, I can say that we know much more about the proceedings of a trial. We learned how to prepare trial documents; I was a judge and drafted the decision. I understood that the judge is a central figure in the proceedings, one that directs the proceedings,” said Rahmataly Zhumaev, one of the students.
“The mock trial is very useful. Previously, when we took part in practical training at the courts, we didn’t take part in the proceedings. But now we have extensive experience of actually taking part in a court proceeding, we understood criminal procedure from various perspectives, and we understood the difference between theory and practice,” said Yuruslan Namasaliev, another course participant.