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(Jul 16, 2012) Kyrgyzstan will soon become another former Soviet republic in which courts with jurors will be introduced, based on an amendment to the Law on Jurors in Kyrgyz Courts adopted by the national legislature, the Zhogorku Kenesh, on May 30, 2012. (Bill on Amendments to the Law on Jurors in Kyrgyz Courts Is Adopted in Second Reading [in Russian], KANT NEWS AGENCY (May 31, 2012).) The original Law on Jurors was passed in 2009 and provided for the participation of panels consisting of nine active and three substitute jurors in cases of severe and extremely severe crimes, for which the accused might face life in prison or a long prison term. (Law No. 215 of July 15, 2009, Spinform online subscription database (last visited July 11, 2012).)

The right to be tried by jurors is guaranteed by the Kyrgyz Constitution, which states: "everyone has the right to have his case considered in court with the participation of jurors in cases stipulated by law" (art. 15.6) and provides for the right of Kyrgyz citizens to "participate in the judicial process in the cases and in the order specified by the law" (art. 82.1). (Constitution of Kyrgyzstan [in Kyrgyz & Russian], Zhogorku Kenesh website (last visited July 11, 2012).)

The original Law on Jurors provided for the gradual introduction of courts with jurors in selected Kyrgyz provinces during the period of 2012-2014. Due to financial and administrative difficulties related to several public revolts and changes in the nation's government system, however, this Law was not implemented. (Courts With Jurors Cannot Start Working Due to Lack of Financing [in Russian], Kyrgyz Telegraph Agency (Mar. 12, 2012).) The new Law states that provisions of the 2009 Law will be implemented as of January 1, 2015, in the courts of the capital city, Bishkek, and in the second largest city, Osh. In 2016, jury trials will be introduced in three other provinces, and as of January 1, 2017, they must be established throughout the country and in military courts. (Bill on Amendments to the Law on Jurors in Kyrgyz Courts Is Adopted in Second Reading, supra.)

The constitutionality of the amendment was challenged by legislators from the opposition Ata-Zhurt faction in the Kyrgyz Parliament. They claimed that because the country's constitution grants all citizens the right to be tried by courts with jurors, the introduction of courts with jurors should occur simultaneously nationwide, and that to do otherwise is inequitable insofar as it makes enjoyment of this right dependent on one's place of residence. (Law on Jurors Contradicts Constitution and Common Sense [in Russian], FOR.KG, (May 30, 2012).)

At present, the Kyrgyz public participates in the judicial process through Courts of Elders established by a national law in 2002. These courts are set up by local self-government institutions and consist of respected individuals, including women, elected by the local communities. The Courts of Elders resolve cases related to small property claims, minor zoning violations, fulfillment of parental obligations, and other minor violations. Rulings of these courts are binding upon the parties. (Law No. 113 of July 5, 2002 [in Russian], LEGISLATIONLINE.)

Author: Peter Roudik More by this author
Topic: Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan) More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 07/16/2012