Central Asia - recent activities
Since 2009, the Venice Commission has established very good co-operation with the national institutions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Different activities are carried out mainly through two programmes: a joint programme between the European Commission and the Council of Europe “support to electoral process in Kazakhstan” and “Equal before the law: access to justice for vulnerable groups” supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.
2013 was marked by the involvement of Turkmenistan in co-operation with the Venice Commission. Another positive development concerned the growing willingness of the countries of the region to request formal opinions from the Venice Commission on their draft legislation (notably Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).
Round Table on the "Reform of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan based on the principles of rule of law"
Following a request from the authorities of Kazakhstan, the Venice Commission contributed to the Round Table on the "Reform of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan based on the principles of rule of law", organised by the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan and the Office of the Prosecutor General which took place in Almaty from 15 to 16 March 2013. The main objective of this activity was to discuss the draft Code of Criminal Procedure and to provide the drafters with recommendations based on the European experience. This event was a starting point for involving the Venice Commission in a dialogue between the authorities and the different international organisations on the reform of the criminal procedure legislation, in particular, with the OSCE, UNDP and the EU. Additional exchanges of views with representatives of the authorities and national MPs on the draft Code are planned for February 2014.
Conference “The Constitution - a basis of strategy of development of society and the State”
The President of the Venice Commission also took part in “August readings” (Astana/Borovoe, 28-29 August 2013), an annual event of the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan aimed at promoting the rule of law in the country. The conference was a real forum for exchange of experience between constitutional lawyers from Kazakhstan, CIS countries and their colleagues from Western Europe.
Link to the Venice Commission's opinons on Kazakhstan
Co-operation with the Constitutional Chamber of Kyrgyzstan
In 2013, the Venice Commission started co-operation with the authorities of the Kyrgyz Republic in the framework of a separate project “Support to the Kyrgyz authorities in improving the quality and efficiency of the Kyrgyz constitutional justice system”. The Constitutional Chamber of Kyrgyzstan had been established by the 2011 Constitution but it could not start its work for procedural reasons. It started its work in July 2013, following changes in legislation on constitutional justice.
The new 18 month long project aims at supporting the newly established Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic by making available the Venice Commission’s unique expertise in the field of constitutional justice. The Chamber, which is composed of lawyers with no previous experience in the field of constitutional justice, requested international assistance in organising its work on the basis of international standards and best international practices.
The project had a very good start. On 13-15 November 2013 the Venice Commission organised jointly with the UNDP office in Bishkek an orientation seminar for the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic in Kalmak-Ashu. The seminar was aimed at judges, experts and staff of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic and pursued the objective of sharing the experience of different constitutional courts in order to assist the Constitutional Chamber to organise its work in an efficient manner. The participants discussed the role and functions of the Chamber, as well as its structure and rules of procedure and its interaction with different state bodies and media. This activity also enabled the project partners to get together and to discuss the work plan for 2014 as well as to agree on the working methods to be used in implementing different activities.
As a follow-up to the November event the Commission organised another seminar in Bishkek on 11‑12 December 2013. This second event was aimed at developing the Communications strategy of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic. 7 out of 9 judges discussed the experience of different constitutional courts, in particular Romania and Georgia. The Venice Commission experts provided the Constitutional Chamber with recommendations for enhancing its work in public outreach.
The President of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr Mukambet Kasymaliev, took part in the Venice Commission’s plenary session on 6-7 December 2013 in Venice. Mr Kasymaliev informed the Commission that the Constitutional Chamber, although it had been formally established in July 2011, only started functioning in July 2013. However, it had already received a great number of complaints from individuals, legal persons and state bodies of the Kyrgyz Republic and the number of new applications was constantly increasing. The Chamber was examining several important cases on taxation, social conflicts and human rights. The President of the Chamber stressed the willingness of the authorities to intensify their co-operation with the Venice Commission.
The Constitutional Chamber of Kyrgyzstan joined the World Conference on Constitutional Justice in December 2013.
Opinion on the draft law amending the law on non-commercial organisations of the Kyrgyz Republic (CDL‑AD(2013)030)
In the framework of another regional project in Central Asia the Commission provided an opinion on the draft legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic on non-commercial organisations. The request was made by the Chairman of the Human Rights, Constitutional Legislation and State Structure Committee of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Venice Commission jointly with the OSCE/ODIHR studied the draft law “on introducing amendments and changes into some Legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic”, notably the law on non-commercial organisations and other legislative acts of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Commission found that the draft law under consideration represented a serious limitation of several fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of association and of expression. Unfortunately, in the light of the short time available, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR did not have an opportunity to discuss these interim findings with the Kyrgyz authorities, and therefore declared that their final position would be taken after such discussion had taken place. An interim joint opinion was adopted at the October 2013 session.
In 2014, the Venice Commission will continue its co-operation with Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the two EU funded projects. A number of concrete activities will already be organised in the Kyrgyz Republic in the first half of 2014.
Link to the Venice Commission's opinions on Kyrgyzstan
In 2013, the Commission published the reports and recommendations of the Conference “Guaranteeing women's rights and improving mechanisms of access to justice for vulnerable groups”, which had been organised by the Commission on 13-14 November 2012 in Dushanbe. This publication was printed in Dushanbe and made available to the conference participants and all interested parties.
Opinion on the draft code of judicial ethics (CDL-AD(2013)035)
On 17 September 2013, the Venice Commission received a request for an opinion on the draft Code on Judicial Ethics from Mr Zafar Azizov, President of the Judicial Council of Tajikistan. It was the first request for an opinion by Tajikistan and an important and positive step for the independence of the judiciary of this country.
A Venice Commission delegation visited Dushanbe on 18 and 19 November 2013 and met with the representatives of the Judicial Council, the Committee on legislation and protection of human rights of the Majlisi Namoyandagon of the Majlisi Oli (lower chamber of Parliament), the High Commercial Court, the General Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Working Group on the Code of Judicial Ethics.
The opinion, adopted at the December 2013 session, clearly set out that it was important to note that a code of ethics could not be seen as replacing the constitutional and legal provisions on the judiciary based on the principle of the rule of law. It was therefore important that the draft Code be considered within the context of the Constitution of Tajikistan and other laws applicable in this area. In particular, it was important that procedural principles on the relationship between ethical standards and disciplinary provisions be established by the law.
The code of ethics was adopted by the Conference of Judges of Tajikistan at the end of November 2013. The Venice Commission was informed that although the Code had been adopted before the opinion was finalised, the latter would still be of invaluable assistance in the development of the judiciary’s professionalism in Tajikistan.
The authorities of Tajikistan informed the Commission about their intention to request additional opinions on draft laws in 2014.
Draft law on mediation
Another exchange of views was organised following a request made by the Judicial Training Centre to the Judicial Council of the Republic of Tajikistan to provide expert comments on the draft law on mediation. A Venice Commission delegation met with the members of the Working Group on the draft law on mediation on 18-19 November 2013. The meeting was followed by a Round Table on mediation on 20 November 2013. The expert comments were translated into the Russian language and made available to the Working Group. The Commission will continue its co-operation with the Tajik authorities to further elaborate the law and to have new exchanges of views with the interested parties.
Link to the Venice Commission's opinions on Tajikistan
Following contacts between the Venice Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan a Round Table on “The efficiency of the judiciary and access to justice as the key elements of the Rule of Law” took place on 9 April 2013 in Ashgabat. Participants in this meeting included members of Parliament, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights. On this occasion, a possible co-operation programme with the Venice Commission was also discussed.
The Turkmen authorities expressed their interest in co-operating with the Venice Commission. However, an activity planned at the end of 2013 on judicial ethics and discipline was postponed until February 2014 at the request of the authorities.
On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the authorities of Uzbekistan invited the Venice Commission to take part in a Conference on “The role and place of the national system for the protection of human rights during the country’s modernisation: international practice and experience of Uzbekistan”. This Conference was organised by the National Human Rights Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan on 24-25 October 2013 in Tashkent.
The Conference brought together representatives of national institutions as well as guests from the UNDP, the OSCE, China, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia and the USA who exchanged their experiences on international standards and national legislation and practice in the field of defending human rights.
Link to the Venice Commission's opinion on Uzbekistan
A regional training course on access to justice for women, children and persons with disabilities took place on 23-25 April 2013 in Almaty. This event was aimed at professionals working with women, children and persons with disabilities, NGO representatives as well as representatives of the judiciary of the four Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The aim of the training event was three-fold: to raise awareness and to promote both the rights of groups that are easily excluded and discriminated against and their equal opportunities for participation; to present good practices in implementing internationally-agreed standards to safeguard children’s rights, women’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities; to facilitate co-operation and the exchange of information and good practices within the relevant bodies in Central Asia in the field of the protection of human rights, access to justice and the rule of law.
Two representatives from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan attended the 10th European Conference of electoral management bodies which took place in Chisinau on 26-27 June 2013 .
Two judges from the newly elected Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic took part in the Conference on “The European Legal Standards of the Rule of Law and the Scope of Discretion of Powers in the Member states of the Council of Europe” in Yerevan, Armenia on 3-4 July 2013.
Representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan took part in the 12th meeting of the Joint Council on Constitutional Justice that took place in Venice, Italy on 9 October 2013.
Outside the electoral assistance programme in Kazakhstan, the Commission continued its co-operation in other areas with the countries of Central Asia. A part of its activities had been funded through the joint project between the Venice Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland "Equal before the law: access to justice for vulnerable groups".