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With initial support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) opened the media support center (MSC) in Almaty to bolster free expression and journalistic rights in Kazakhstan. The center's activities are currently jointly supported by the British Embassy in Astana and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The MSC provides a range of legal support to the independent media including:
The Legal Support to the Independent Media program ended in August 2007.
From December 2008 through March 2012, the regional legal advocacy program provided a forum to connect and network advocates and legal leaders across Central Asia and encouraged them to discuss common problems, especially in criminal cases, and to come together to develop regional solutions. The program provided support for advocates on emerging legal issues, such as the recent institution of jury trials in Kazakhstan, the move to do the same in Kyrgyzstan and the use of strategic litigation across the region. It further trained advocates on advocacy skills in the courtroom and leadership skills in the community, providing them with guidance and resources on special issues and cases. The Central Asian League of Lawyers, a regional association of lawyers established as an outgrowth of the 2010 regional exchange, is a formally registered non-governmental organization in Kyrgyzstan and continues to promote cooperation within the region’s legal community.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) 2010–2011 court monitoring activities in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan identified trends in courtroom criminal proceedings specific to each country as well as common successes and challenges. A comprehensive analysis of findings helped those countries’ legal communities’ better understand further reform needs, including in such areas as equality of prosecution and defense, openness of hearings, protection of defendant rights, quality of legal assistance and judicial independence. The program helped create and strengthen court monitoring mechanisms in these three countries. In Uzbekistan, where gaining access to the courtroom is particularly challenging, ABA ROLI leveraged its Public Defense Center internship program, allowing lawyer interns to observe courts. In Tajikistan, ABA ROLI engaged with the Center for Human Rights, which had been monitoring cases in the country since 2005, to train law graduates and practicing lawyers on court monitoring methodology and tools, as well as on local and international fair-trial standards. And in Kyrgyzstan, ABA ROLI directly trained local courtroom monitors to observe cases resulting from the 2010 violence in the south and to assess how they were covered in mass media. These efforts have resulted in the establishment of court monitoring working groups and programs, which will play a critical role in future criminal law reform efforts in Central Asia.
From 2002 to 2007, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI)—through its U.S. Agency for International Development-supported public legal education program—worked to bolster the public’s legal literacy and corresponding ability to assert its rights. Component activities included: