Even though Tajikistan’s legal and judiciary machinery is in place, the system is still in transition and needs reforms. Progress has been made towards guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary, but much work remains to be done, in particular to ensure that the law is transparent, and the justice system is accessible to all. Often, people do not know what their rights are and how they can defend them.
Switzerland has been supporting legal reform in Tajikistan for several years. An initial project helped to set up legal aid centres in various parts of the country. The centres were aimed particularly at the poor and the vulnerable: in 2010 the centres provided over 5000 people with free legal aid – over 70% were women. At the same time, legal awareness raising campaigns were conducted to increase people’s knowledge of their rights.
Another key intervention is in the field of domestic violence, a wide-spread phenomenon in Tajikistan. The program supports crisis centres, where victims of domestic violence can seek medical, psychological and legal counselling. Information campaigns aim to increase the awareness of the population concerning prevention of domestic violence. Finally, the drafting of a concrete law against domestic violence has been supported together with the Swiss Human Rights Program.
Over the next four years, Switzerland will continue to develop this work: the legal aid centres will be supported, not just to offer legal advice for those in immediate need of it, but to increase people’s awareness of what their legal rights are, and how to uphold them. The practical experience of the legal aid centres will also allow determining which laws are missing and which judicial procedures need to be improved. The Swiss program will facilitate the establishment of a platform where the Tajik civil society and the State authorities can discuss these issues and together develop concepts for reform. The governmental partners will then be supported in the implementation of these reforms. The prevention of domestic violence, e.g. through mass media campaigns and group discussions in villages, and the support to victims of domestic violence will also continue to be a key component of the program.
Ultimately, the overall goal is to contribute to better access to justice for the entire population of Tajikistan, with a legal system that is truly responsive to people’s needs and in which rule of law and human rights are respected and protected.
Main implementing partners are UNDP, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, GOPA Consultants and UNICEF.