On 15th February 2011, Dr George Welton presented the results of the research he managed on Access to Justice in Central Asia. The research was the result of a large literature review and legal/institutional analysis, 1,908 survey questionnaires, 74 expert interviews and six focus groups conducted in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, over 80 expert interviews from September 2010
The work was conducted with the Caucasus Research Resource Centers in Georgia and MVector in Central Asia as part of the project planning for a large Finnish Government financed Access to Justice Project.
The survey results were first used to identify the biggest problems identified by respondents where one might ordinarily expect the legal process to be involved for the purpose of restitution.
Biggest problems identified by the survey
The research was interested to note that the problems across the three countries were very similar with theft, problem divorce (a divorce during which there is dispute over children or property), document registration, violence in the home and disagreements over property
We were also interested to find out how people generally resolved their disputes. For example, we asked respondents to tell us how they would settle a dispute over land.
Similar profiles of answers were provided in other scenarios. Generally only Kazakhstan had a majority of respondents resolving significant disputes in the courts. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan it was more likely that respondents would take their disputes to the head of the village or a tribal court.
From our research we identified 6 main barriers to justice.
First, the unwillingness to involve others in disputes means that most people will not even take an issue to court. In domestic violence, for example, between 1/3 (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) and 1/2 of (Tajikistan) said that a woman should not involve external authority if she is beaten by a member of her family.
Second, poor knowledge of the law creates a problem because people do not even know when their rights are being violated. For example, many respondents did not know that they had the right to a lawyer or the situation where a marriage is recognised by the law.
Third, lack of resources was a problem because most citizens did not know where they could get legal representation that they could afford
Fourth, corruption and perception of corruption in the system, meant that even cases that went to court may not be resolved fairly.
Fifth, in many parts of each of the three countries, there is a very low number of lawyers per person and courts can be very distant.
Finally, structural characteristics of a legal system, which is in many ways still a hangover from state control, have lead to a strong bias in favor of the prosecution. As a result, most prosecutions result in conviction.
As a result of all of this analysis, the project suggested both general and specific interventions that the Finnish rule of law project could focus upon.
Suggested General Interventions
Suggested Country Specific Interventions