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Our Rule of Law Work in Tajikistan

Improving the legal education system

With support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) since 2014, ABA ROLI has sought to promote the rule of law in Tajikistan by raising the standards of legal education as part of its Legal Education Reform Program. ABA ROLI has worked directly with law professors from three universities to expose them to more modern and interactive teaching techniques and support them in implementing new methodologies in their classrooms. Through ABA ROLI’s program, students have the opportunity to engage in client counseling competitions, mock trials and internships and mentoring programs, while professors have gained international experience from colleagues in the U.S. on best teaching practices.

Fostering equality through the justice sector

ABA ROLI began its Justice Sector Equality Program in Tajikistan in December 2016 with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), building upon the progress made under its former Legal Reform Program, to foster a criminal justice system that engenders equal participation from the whole justice sector and upholds the rights of individuals across Tajikistan. At the core of this program is the Legislative Reform Working Group, composed of stakeholders from every segment of the justice system, which identifies gaps in human rights legislation and proposes reforms to fill them. ABA ROLI also continues to support the Union of Advocates to provide professional development opportunities for the country’s defense advocates.

Past Programs

Criminal Law Reform

Tajikistan has an unnecessarily high rate of pretrial detention, with more than 90 percent of accused persons imprisoned before their trial. From February 2012 to February 2013, and with funding from the Open Society Institute, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) worked to reduce the reliance on pretrial detention by helping to establish clear, uniform procedures. ABA ROLI developed both arrest and pretrial detention guidelines, as well as a handbook and training materials to equip stakeholders with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the guidelines.

The arrest guidelines, which include a written statement of rights that is presented to suspects, have been accepted by relevant government bodies as standard protocol for arresting officers to adhere to when taking suspects into custody. Working with ABA ROLI, representatives from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior signed a joint order on detention, binding them to follow the arrest and pretrial detention guidelines.

Additionally, ABA ROLI developed a practice handbook, which incorporates both the arrest guidelines and pretrial detention guidelines, and broadly circulated it among stakeholders, soliciting their feedback. In the final months of the program, ABA ROLI conducted a training-of-trainers on the application of the guidelines in pretrial detention hearings for twenty-one stakeholders from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Supreme Court, the Council of Justice, the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and leading defense advocates. ABA ROLI also developed training materials, which supplement criminal procedure training materials it had previously created, which will be used in the ABA ROLI-supported advocate training program at the Public Defense Center, at the Judicial Training Center and at the Prosecutors’ Training Center.

Anti-Human Trafficking

Extreme poverty in Tajikistan, along with a lack of economic opportunity, has prompted many Tajik men to seek employment abroad. Women and children are also often 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 affected communities in remote areas, where human trafficking is most prevalent.

From September 2011 to June 2013, with funding from U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, ABA ROLI implemented its program to fight human trafficking by empowering local communities through increased public awareness of economic rights and human trafficking schemes in rural areas. Throughout this program, ABA ROLI built and maintained close relationships with key governmental bodies, the criminal justice community and youth education groups—including law schools—to ensure anti-human trafficking lessons were sustained beyond the life of the program.

To raise public awareness in rural regions, ABA ROLI developed a series of brochures and posters, and prepared a mobile anti-human trafficking advocacy team comprising lawyers, prosecutors and police to provide anti-human trafficking training and legal assistance to vulnerable populations. Over the course of the program, ABA ROLI trained 1,355 individuals throughout the country, distributed 5,810 brochures and provided 44 legal consultations.

To increase the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases, ABA ROLI worked with experts, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to develop a resource book and training materials for prosecutors, investigators, and other law enforcement officers. Under the program, 87 prosecutors from 49 districts surrounding five cities received victim-centered anti-human trafficking training and have been provided with resources for use in future cases.

ABA ROLI also worked with Tajikistan’s Inter-Agency Commission on Prevention of Human Trafficking—the government agency responsible for combatting human trafficking—to deliver peer-to-peer education on anti-human trafficking issues to at-risk children. Working with three youth centers located in Dushanbe, Yavan and Vahdat, ABA ROLI trained 19 volunteer peer-educators (including three center supervisors) to provide interactive trainings to, and share materials with, a total of 766 youth. Through these activities, the youth centers disseminated 2,760 brochures, 400 posters and 900 children’s books on human trafficking.

Legal Education Reform and Civic Education

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.

Women's Rights

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.