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On October 8, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) held an open house event to launch new tools and resources—including a mock-trial courtroom, a public defense center and a public defense network—for Tajikistani defense advocates. More than 70 people, including law professors and representatives of law enforcement agencies, local defense bar associations (collegia of advocates) and national and international non-governmental organizations, attended the event.
The resources are part of ABA ROLI’s ongoing efforts to increase the quality of legal aid in Tajikistan by equipping the country’s advocate community with critical resources and tools to effectively represent clients. Marit Rasmussen, former ABA ROLI country director in Tajikistan, said that the new resources will help better equip defense attorneys by affording them practical-skills opportunities and services that will enhance their professionalism. The Public Defense Center serves as a centralized clearinghouse of information for defense advocates related to professional development, case management and referrals, and substantive and practical skills training. The Public Defense Network will interconnect all existing advocate bodies, whereas the mock-trial courtroom will serve as a training space for defense attorneys, giving them hands-on experience in litigation, advocacy and appeals.
During the event, representatives of key ABA ROLI partners said that their long-term collaboration with ABA ROLI has had a positive impact on the country’s legal system. Representatives of the Supreme Court and the General Prosecutor’s Office, for instance, cited their cooperation with ABA ROLI to improve criminal procedure legislation and to train legal professionals. The president of one of the country’s most prominent collegia highlighted ABA ROLI’s contribution to the development of the institution of advocatura (the profession of defense advocates) through a comprehensive set of activities that promote unification and uniformity of the advocate community.
ABA ROLI’s work in Tajikistan is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the United Kingdom Embassy in Dushanbe. ABA ROLI will continue to work with advocates, collegia and other stakeholders to increase professional-development opportunities for defense advocates and to ensure quality legal defense is available for those who need it.
To learn more about our work in Tajikistan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.