Tajikistan has an unnecessarily high rate of pretrial detention, with more than 90 percent of accused persons being locked up. With a short-term funding award from the Open Society Institute (OSI), ABA ROLI aims to establish clearer and more uniform procedures for pretrial detention hearings, and to equip judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in pretrial detention hearings with the knowledge and skills to more effectively play their role.
This program will result in a set of model pretrial procedural guidelines endorsed by the Prosecutor General’s Office and Supreme Court (who have the authority to issue guidance for prosecutors and judges), and the various collegia of advocates. With guidelines established, ABA ROLI will conduct a training of trainers on how to use the guidelines in pretrial detention hearings. These can be added to the existing Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) training programs already conducted for judges by the Judicial Training Center (JTC), for prosecutors by the Prosecutors Training Center (PTC) and for advocates through the collegia, thereby ensuring sustainability.
Extreme poverty in Tajikistan, along with a lack of economic opportunity, have prompted many Tajik men to seek employment abroad. Women and children are often left vulnerable to human trafficking schemes, including forced labor and sex trafficking. Tajikistan’s central government has passed strong laws and decrees aimed at curbing human trafficking through prosecution and advocacy, but these measures have not reached communities in remote areas, where human trafficking is most prevalent.
In September 2011, with funding from U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) began its program to fight human trafficking by empowering local communities. Through this program, ABA ROLI will work to increase public awareness of economic rights and human trafficking schemes in rural Tajikistan. ABA ROLI will also foster increased coordination between local law enforcement agencies and the central government to ensure more effective prevention of and protection from human trafficking.
We have developed a mobile advocacy team composed of lawyers, prosecutors and police to provide anti-human trafficking training and legal assistance to vulnerable populations. The team regularly travels to remote areas, where the population is poor, economic opportunities scarce, and information and legal aid virtually nonexistent. There, the team provides community trainings on labor rights, legal migration, tactics that human traffickers employ and services available for human trafficking victims and their families. The team has created informational brochures on topics such as labor rights, child labor, migrant rights and domestic violence, which have been translated into Tajik and are distributed to vulnerable populations so they can protect themselves. Finally, the prosecutors and police officers on the team will work with their regional counterparts on how to investigate human trafficking claims, coordinate resources and, ultimately, protect their respective communities.
Additionally, ABA ROLI and the mobile advocacy team are developing a program to build a youth-oriented anti-human trafficking peer-training team. Working with the Tajik State National University’s Law Faculty, we have launched a pilot street law program geared towards educating youth on economic empowerment through simple legal rights and anti-human trafficking outreach. This law student-led team will also educate secondary school students and at-risk youth on their rights and on how to avoid human trafficking schemes.
In September 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) launched a program that will assist Tajikistan’s fractured defense advocate community to create a coordinated public defense center (PDC) and a public defense network. With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, ABA ROLI will foster coordination of efforts among the country’s defense advocates to improve access to legal services for indigent defendants.
Tajikistan currently lacks a cohesive system for providing legal defense to indigent clients. Unlike the comparatively well-funded and government-supported prosecutor’s office and judiciary, the defense bar remains without a dedicated training center. It also lacks sufficient resources to engage in ongoing or systematic training efforts. The lack of resources puts the defense community at a distinct disadvantage compared to prosecutors.
ABA ROLI’s program will benefit more than 250 defense advocates nationwide. While the PDC will be in the capital Dushanbe, it will serve all four regions of Tajikistan, addressing advocates’ need for a unified voice and for a public defense system that coordinates legal defense for the indigent.
ABA ROLI also helped create the Advocate Leadership Committee (ALC) in 2011. The committee consists of the leaders of the six collegia (the country’s advocate associations) and additional six highly respected legal professionals. Since the committee’s launch, ABA ROLI and the ALC have worked closely with the government and civil society to foster balance of arms in the judicial sector, and to promote defense bar reform.
Additionally, ABA ROLI will draw on its more than 15 years of experience providing legal technical assistance in Tajikistan to help create a cohesive and cooperative public defense network. The network, which will connect the country’s six collegia and eight other non-governmental organizations, will foster coordination among the country’s defense advocates and civil society organizations. The program will help build a stronger legal system that benefits all Tajikistani citizens.