April 30, 2016

Defense Advocates and Prosecutors Attend Training on Investigating Drug Crimes

On April 16, 2016, the АBA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) trained 20 participants on the roles of state agencies, officials, and members of the criminal law community in illegal trafficking of narcotic substances cases. The training took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan as part of ABA ROLI’s INL-funded Court Monitoring of Drug Related Crimes in Central Asia program, which addresses theoretical and practical issues in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases relating to the illegal trafficking of narcotic substances in the region.


ABA ROLI trained 20 participants on the roles of state agencies, officials, and members of the criminal law community in illegal trafficking of narcotic substances cases. 

Participants - defense advocates and prosecutors who would normally face off against one another in a courtroom - established common opinions and viewpoints on units charged with investigating drug sales even though the two units with investigative authority still have differing mandates regarding accusation responsibilities. Advocates discussed their differences concerning the qualification of the crime of their client by a prosecutor or state official which encompasses the determination of whether or not a crime is a felony, whether or not there was intent to commit the crime and establishing the appropriate article(s) of the Criminal Code that the crime will be qualified under.

Advocates also raised questions on how they can best protect clients from due process violations, specifically in instances where drugs are planted at a crime scene and where bribes are paid by state authorities to witnesses to testify that the state lawfully conducted its search. The advocates were advised on different strategies and tactics to respond to these challenges. For instance, the first step advocates should take when they suspect due process violations is to report it to the higher-ranking officials in the prosecutor’s office. Advocates can also request to call in independent expertise for certain issues during the investigation or the court proceeding stages. Finally, the advocates were advised to request meetings with witnesses in the court room during the investigation stage to explore the validity of their testimony.

Steven Kessell, ABA ROLI’s pro bono legal specialist in Bishkek, closed the training by speaking on the American experience of combatting illegal narcotics trafficking. Mr. Kessell’s extensive experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in the U.S. proved valuable to the attendees, who were able to compare criminal procedure and legislation of the U.S. with that of the Kyrgyz Republic.

To learn more about our work in Kyrgyzstan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.