23 September 2005

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Leandro Despouy, issued the following statement today:

"The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Leandro Despouy, is presently visiting Kyrgyzstan at the invitation of the Government.

The Special Rapporteur thanked the Government of Kyrgyzstan for their warm welcome and for the opportunity to meet with various representatives of the government, parliament, and judiciary. He further thanked the United Nations Development Office in Kyrgyzstan, other international organisations and local non-governmental organisations with whom he met for the cooperation they extended to him. The information obtained will facilitate the work of the Special Rapporteur in the preparation of an objective report on the situation of the judicial system in the country.

Acknowledging that the country is presently going through an important period of transition, the Special Rapporteur would like to make the following preliminary observations:

1) The Special Rapporteur welcomes the efforts already made in the process of the constitutional reform in the country. Most actors with whom he met strongly believe in the importance of furthering institutional reforms, in particular of the judiciary, in order to ensure the stable and progressive development of Kyrgyzstan.

2) The Special Rapporteur is concerned with the continuing lack of trust of the population in the judicial system, which is mainly a consequence of existing judicial procedures that insufficiently address the right of habeas corpus and guarantees of fair trial.

3) In this connection, numerous interlocutors brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur significant problems related to the status and role of lawyers, in particular defence lawyers, in the country. This includes, among others, their dependent position with regard to the executive branch, the inferior situation in which lawyers constantly find themselves vis-à-vis the prosecutor during trials, and their inadequate professional qualifications.

4) The Special Rapporteur noted with concern that judges have not been able to fulfil their role to efficiently safeguard the rights of citizens. This is due to various factors, including insufficient professional expertise, the lack of training, and their apparent unwillingness to assume their responsibility towards society. In this regard, the country also needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption.

5) The Special Rapporteur strongly encourages Kyrgyzstan to adopt legislation governing juvenile justice.

6) Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the support from the Kyrgyz Government for the resettlement of Uzbek refugees to third countries and the Government's compliance with the 1951 Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture and encourages the Government to continue this policy without exception.

7) The Special Rapporteur welcomes the willingness of the Government to cooperate with the international community to tackle existing problems and hopes that the necessary financial resources will be made available by international donors to support the reform programmes in the country.

The Rapporteur would like to express his strong hope that judicial reform will be at the heart of the ongoing constitutional reform process in which, he expects, all parts of society will remain included. He is of the opinion that the present institutional reconstruction should enable the judiciary to play a crucial role in the protection of human rights in Kyrgyzstan.

The Special Rapporteur will present his report to the Commission on Human Rights in the spring 2006 and he will also address the General Assembly next month."

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For use of the information media; not an official record