Expert Commentary on the Draft Law of Uzbekistan “On Free Legal Aid”

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has published an analysis of the draft Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Free Legal Aid.

Access to justice is recognized as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which in in Target 16.3 of Goal 16 calls for promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all. This is particularly important when a person's fundamental rights to life and liberty are put at risk.

 

The analysis is based on principles and concepts derived from a number of international standards and norms and related guidance, including the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems and the UNODC Model Law on Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems. A comparative approach is used to provide examples of legal aid systems of Canada, Germany, Georgia, Russia and other countries.

Strengthening the legal aid system is among the priority areas for rule of law-related reforms in Uzbekistan. The current system of state-funded legal aid in Uzbekistan has several shortcomings. State-funded aid is granted only in criminal cases. Clear criteria to determine eligibility for legal aid are lacking. The necessary legal framework has not been developed for the provision of legal assistance to citizens by non-governmental non-profit organizations and other civil society institutions, which, as practice shows, make a significant contribution to the realization of the right to legal defense.

The draft law provides for the creation of a unified system for managing, coordinating and regulating legal aid; ensures state-funded legal advice to socially vulnerable groups of the population in administrative and civil cases, along with criminal proceedings; determines the categories of persons who are guaranteed the right to receive free legal assistance; types, forms and methods of delivery of legal aid by lawyers, non-governmental organizations, legal clinics and other entities; as well as evaluation of the effectiveness and quality of legal aid services.

The first version of the draft law was developed by the Chamber of Lawyers and the Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan in 2018. Since then UNODC has been supporting its further development through expert advice and dialogue platforms. In 2019, the draft law was presented for public discussion in the government portal and further consultations on the draft took place in 2020.

UNODC is promoting reform of the bar association and legal aid system as part of its assistance to criminal justice reform in Uzbekistan with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). This includes expert advice to a working group tasked with developing a strategic concept and legal framework for the development of the bar association and the legal profession, in partnership with other international organizations. UNODC has also made available its Handbook on Ensuring Quality of Legal Aid Services in Criminal Justice Processes in Russian.

материал на русском языке