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In February 2013, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) successfully completed a one-year program funded by the Open Society Institute to establish clearer and more uniform guidelines for pretrial detention hearings and arrest procedures, and to equip judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys with the knowledge and skills to more effectively play their role during the trial process. This program resulted in a set of arrest and pretrial procedural guidelines endorsed by the Prosecutor General’s Office, law enforcement bodies and the various collegia of advocates (the country’s advocate associations). With guidelines established, ABA ROLI developed a handbook to aid criminal justice actors in applying the guidelines, and conducted a training of trainers on how to use the guidelines during arrest and in pretrial detention hearings. These trainings will supplement existing Criminal Procedure Code training programs of the Judicial Training Center, the Prosecutors Training Center and the collegia. The trainings will help reduce the unnecessarily high rate of pretrial detention in Tajikistan.
In August 2012, ABA ROLI successfully completed a four-year criminal law reform program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the U.S. Department of Justice. The program helped increase access to justice and enhance the protection of rights of criminal defendants, including by increasing defense advocates’ capacity through practical skills trainings and developing practical legal education curricula. We also helped organize, unify and strengthen the advocate communityand provided access to legal resources and research materials.
To further criminal procedure reform, during this program ABA ROLI helped organize a criminal defense advocacy group, the Advocates’ Leadership Committee, consisting mainly of active and reform-minded defense advocates. With our support, the group trained defense advocates, generated and implemented an advocates’ ethics code and supported efforts to advance criminal procedure reform.
Extreme poverty in Tajikistan, along with a lack of economic opportunity, has prompted many Tajikistani men to seek employment abroad. Also, women and children are often left vulnerable to human trafficking schemes, including forced labor and sex trafficking. While Tajikistan’s government has passed strong laws and decrees aimed at curbing human trafficking, these measures have little to protect communities in remote areas, where human trafficking is most prevalent.
In June 2013, ABA ROLI completed a U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons-funded program to fight human trafficking by empowering local communities. ABA ROLI worked to increase public awareness of economic rights and human trafficking schemes in rural Tajikistan and among youth. ABA ROLI also fostered increased coordination between local law enforcement agencies and the central government to ensure more effective prevention of and protection from human trafficking.
ABA ROLI 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 traveled to remote areas, where the population is poor, economic opportunities scarce, and information and legal aid virtually nonexistent, and provided community trainings on labor rights, legal migration, human traffickers’ tactics and services available for human trafficking victims and their families. The team also created informational brochures on topics such as labor rights, child labor, migrant rights and domestic violence, which were translated into Tajik and distributed to vulnerable populations.
Additionally, ABA ROLI and the mobile advocacy team developed a program to build a youth-oriented anti-human trafficking peer-training team. Working with the Tajik State National University’s Law Faculty, ABA ROLI launched a pilot street-law program geared towards educating youth on economic empowerment through simple legal rights and anti-human trafficking lessons. This law student-led team also educated secondary school students and at-risk youth on their rights and on how to avoid human trafficking schemes.
In August 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), successfully completed its three-year Legal Education and Exchange Program (LEEP).
LEEP grew out of INL’s recognition that the legal education system in Tajikistan was stagnant and ineffective at the time. The existing institutions largely relied on traditional teaching methodologies that lacked comparative education models and gave little direct exposure to the legal system. As a result, young legal professionals entering the work force lacked an understanding of the realities of the profession, knowledge of current national laws and international conventions, and they were not equipped with adequate substantive and practical skills to practice law effectively.
The program was designed to address these deficiencies by providing members of the criminal law community opportunities to enhance their practical skills, to discuss comparative legal systems and international standards, and to gain a broader understanding of these concepts while forging relationships with their colleagues, as well as with their American counterparts. ABA ROLI, including by cooperating with the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX), brought young future leaders on several short- and long-term study tours—including intensive English language and American law courses, and LL.M. programs, respectively—to the United States.
ABA ROLI also organized five training programs, known as Justice Forums, which discussed the basic structure and functioning of the U.S. judicial system and international standards with members of the Tajik legal community. A total of 87 legal professionals participated in these Justice Forums, participating in comparative examination of Tajikistani and U.S. legal systems. Led by ABA ROLI pro bono legal specialists, staff, and guest lecturers, the Forums were well-received, and at the request of Tajikistan’s legal community, they were held more frequently in the later years of the program.
In 2010, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), successfully completed a two-year program to promote gender equality in Tajikistan. The program, which supported the initiation of strategic litigation cases in local courts as well as international tribunals, boosted ongoing efforts to pass gender-equality legislation, and to effectively employ existing laws.
ABA ROLI worked with two local non-governmental organizations, INIS, an independent, local non-governmental organization that operates women’s legal advocacy centers, and the League of Women Lawyers, who hired three local lawyers to implement the program. The program educated rural women about their rights and challenged stereotypes and biases against women. It provided women access to justice through roving legal clinics. It also selected and litigated six cases to help bring attention to women’s rights and ran a concurrent awareness-raising media campaign.
Quarterly, program lawyers traveled to three remote districts—Faizabad, Khovaling and Muminobad—and, through visiting four-day pro bono legal clinics, informed citizens of their legal rights while training local attorneys in both substantive areas of the law and in trial techniques. Legal advice addressed topics of interest to women, including marriage, divorce, domestic violence, inheritance, employment discrimination, and bureaucratic obstacles to travel. Cases appropriate for strategic litigation were identified and pursued to implement good laws and challenge bad ones.
Additionally, ABA ROLI retained the Theatre Padida, a well-known Tajikistani troupe, to produce and perform a theatrical production that addressed issues of gender equality. Theatre is a powerful medium in Tajikistan, especially in areas with limited access to television, radio, or print media. The performances, which occurred simultaneously with the legal clinic visits, supplemented the program targeting rural regions. This program also promoted the protection of women’s rights through three Tajik language animated public service announcements broadcasted on the national station TV Safina.
The program built on work accomplished from 2003–2006 through a DRL-supported program that created a legal support center for indigent and vulnerable women, and assisted the League of Women Lawyers and other non-governmental organizations in advancing draft domestic-violence legislation and public advocacy activities that advocated for the implementation of a March 2005 gender equality law.