Estonia’s experience: What can judges from Uzbekistan learn from the high-tech leader?Nov 15, 2015
November 15-20, 2015 – Judges of Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, Supreme Economic Court of Uzbekistan, regional civil courts and interdistrict civil courts of Tashkent, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications are visiting Estonia with an aim to explore its experience in developing and implementing ICTs in courts. The study tour is organized by the joint project of Supreme Court, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Nations Development Programme “Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan” in cooperation with the e-Governance Academy of Estonia.
Enabling openness of the judiciary and access to justice are among the key components of the judicial reform in Uzbekistan. These goals were also proclaimed in the national concept of further strengthening of democratic reforms and development of civil society in the country announced in 2010 by the President of Uzbekistan. Additional regulatory and legislative acts were passed reinforcing the openness and efficiency of courts. Namely, acts that laid out foundation for a wide introduction of ICTs in courts, and enabling electronic case file to court via information system beginning January 1, 2016.
Today, Uzbekistan is scaling-up its national electronic case management system E-SUD, developed and piloted by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan with the support of UNDP in 2013. Up to date, the system has been scaled up to cover first instance civil courts, additional modules are being developed for appellate, cassation and supervisory instance courts. Given its wide implementation, E-SUD will grant citizens an opportunity to file cases on-line, access to the complete case file, an option to track the case progress as well as direct and immediate access to any procedural document issued by court including court decision and interim rulings.
E-SUD will not only cut down time needed to review the case, but also the number of cases reviewed thanks to the improved efficiency of judicial services. In the meantime, at this point, to ensure successful scaling-up and nationwide implementation of the system, there is a need to ensure file exchange between the different instances of courts, as well as their effective interaction with other branches of government. Therefore, at this stage, it is important to explore lessons learned and best practices from world leaders in e-government and e-justice.
In this regard, Estonia's experience is unique. It all started with the development of digital government master plan in 1997. Today, country’s e-government system is well-known worldwide for its efficiency, effectiveness and a wide range of interactive public services provided to citizens, nearly 3,000, from filing tax forms to on-line voting in general elections. Such approach has also been supported by mandatory identification cards (ID-card), which allow Estonian citizens to sign any electronic document and send the public authority.
It should be noted that these technologies have also been effectively introduced in the judicial system. Estonia introduced "E-Toimik" information system in its country courts, which allows on-line application of case file, checking the status of cases pending in the court, and access to documents issued by the courts. This information system allows to record and save all documents and interim rulings issued by judges, distribute automatically all incoming cases among judges based on their current workload, as well as an option where any judge can decide upon the publication of court decision on-line.
It should be noted, that the study-tour is organized with the support of e-Governance Academy of Estonia, founded in 2002 with the support of UNDP. The Academy aims to create and develop open digital communities, provides research, policy advice and assistance in the implementation of technical solutions for e-government.
Over the course of the study tour, the representatives of Uzbekistan’s judiciary branch will hold meetings with the e-Governance Academy of Estonia, Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court, Centre of Registers and Information Systems and the Data Protection Inspectorate. In addition, participants will be able to explore Estonian judicial system, in terms of and particularly the use of information systems, through visits to district courts of Tallinn, Tartu and Jõgeva.
Development of proposals improving legislation, are expected as a result of the study-tour. Particularly, the existing mechanisms of interaction and exchange of information (data flow) between the information systems of various courts and government bodies in Estonia will be analyzed and discussed with the judges and representatives of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan. As a result, the participants will determine the lessons learned and experiences of Estonia that can be applied in the context of Uzbekistan. It is expected that the study of Estonia’s experience, will allow representatives of the judicial system in Uzbekistan to contribute to the further scale-up and improvement of the E-SUD e-justice system and help ensure interaction between all relevant parties to speed up the launch of the system across all civil courts of the country.
*The joint project of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Nations Development Programme ”Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan” is aimed at improvement of trust in and access to Uzbekistan’s judiciary. The project works across the three main directions – improvement of citizen feedback mechanism, further scale-up of E-SUD e-justice system, and improvement of court administration.