The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the International Commissionof Jurists co-sponsored an October 18–23 conference on internationalhuman rights law in Geneva. A total of 20 lawyers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended the conference, which provided participantswith practical training on international human rights instruments andenforcement mechanisms.
Despite constitutional protection for basic human rights across CentralAsia, human rights violations frequently go unprosecuted. To address thisenforcement gap, the conference convened international human rights expertsfrom the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, the Office of the UN HighCommissioner for Human Rights and a prominent Russian human rights lawyer,Karinna Moskalenko, to share their expertise. Discussions addressed employinginternational treaties and laws in domestic courts and appealing cases throughthe International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to internationalbodies, such as the UN Commission on Human Rights and the European Court ofHuman Rights.
Anara Ibrayeva, a lawyer and human rights advocate from Astana, Kazakhstan,who filed two petitions with the UN Commission on Human Rights while she was inGeneva, said that the material covered would enable her “to better protect” therights of her clients. “I’d written the petitions in Kazakhstan so that I couldfile them in Geneva,” she said, “However, after I attended the conferencesessions, I was able to improve both of them before they were filed.”
Participants said they will build on the training and apply the techniquesthey learned in their home countries. Kenzhegali Karchegenov, chairman of theAlmaty City Bar Association, said that he would encourage further dialoguebetween conference participants, members of his organization and internationalhuman rights experts to ensure continued progress in the region.
Other participants said they would share the lessons they learned andmaterials they got in Geneva. Almaze Osmanova of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, said sheplaned to “convene training sessions [for] the members of the Kyrgyz bar sothat they will learn how to use the information we received to improve thequality of the legal process for our clients.”
Ivan Abrams, ABA ROLI country director in Kazakhstan, said “These trainingsare critical for increasing the capacity of lawyers who defend human rights inone of the most challenging regions of the world.”
“Participants at this conference are acquiring skills that they canpractically put to use to protect civil society actors and share with theircolleagues,” said Abrams. “A strong defense advocate community contributesdirectly to the greater respect of rights and increased accountability in anycountry.”
The conference is part of an ABA ROLI program that promotes criminal lawreform and networking among lawyers in the Central Asia region. The program issupported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcoticsand Law Enforcement Affairs.