Stefan Priesner: Opening Speech on the Presentation of the E-Justice (E-Court) System in the Zangiata Inter-District Civil Court

17 Sep 2013

Honorable Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, Mr. Buritosh Mustafaev, Honorable Chief Justice of the Federal Court in Malaysia, Mr. Arifin Bin Zakaria, Distinguished organisers and participants of this international seminar.

It is a pleasure to be here as part of an international event devoted to Uzbekistan’s efforts and the experience of foreign countries on increasing the efficiency of courts and administration of justice implementing of ICT tools.

I would like to begin by highlighting the significance of today’s event, borrowing a quote from President Karimov, who said in his 2011 concept on ‘Deepening of democratisation and formation of civil society’:

“One of the key priorities of the democratic renewal of the country is the consistent democratisation and liberalisation of the judicial system, aimed at ensuring the rule of law, protection of the rights and freedoms of the individual, in short, - the formation of the rule of law and sense of justice in the public. …. A complex of organisational and legal measures has been undertaken for the independency and autonomy of the court, …. designed to reliably protect and defend the rights and freedoms of man and citizen”.

I am confident that today’s event will be an important step in contributing to this vision of protecting the rights and freedoms of people through an efficient justice system, and a society based on the rule of law.

I’d like to emphasise that this is very much in line with UNDP’s view of the importance of justice – A well-functioning justice sector is obviously a precondition to spur economic growth. But equally importantly, we view it as closely related to human development and to poverty eradication, and as a backbone for the realisation of citizen’s rights.  

This is because an effective justice system provides a level playing field for all, including the most disadvantaged, to seek and obtain a remedy for grievances.

While we are celebrating today an important step forward by introducing new technology, I think it is important to recall the relationship between the means (ICTs) and the end – the formidable goal of building a just society.

Ladies and gentlemen, governments all over the world are leveraging the power of ICTs to operate more efficiently and effectively, to make public services more responsive, and to provide easier access to public records and information for citizens, including through the internet.

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) is also considered to be one of the key elements to significantly improve the administration of justice. And this is important, because we see justice – although with special due process requirements and a branch of Government in its own right – as a public service.

As in any reform area, there are many lessons to be learnt from the progressive development of ICT in justice sector (so-called E-justice system) from other countries that already went through similar reforms.  I would therefore like to commend the Supreme Court for inviting high level experts to exchange views of some of the lessons from elsewhere.

In the effort to enhance efficiency of court administration through ICTs, UNDP is proud to be a partner of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan and its affiliated Research Centre in the framework of the ‘Civil Justice Reform Project’. The following aspects are worth mentioning:

  • Pilot approach: The pilot approach, which we use here in the Zanigata inter-district civil court, provides an opportunity to experiment with the application of the new systems, and therefore minimise risks/reduce costs which may arise during the implementation of wide scale reforms in civil justice. We are especially pleased to see that the government has a vision to replicate achieved results in all other civil courts of the country.
  • Unified rules of court buildings construction: The project has also provided support to make civil justice more accessible for the population, especially disadvantaged groups (persons with disabilities, women with children). We are proud to highlight that during this short period of time, ‘Unified rules of court buildings construction’ were designed. The solutions given in this ‘Unified rules’ have already been used in this pilot civil court. For instance, all services for clients will be provided on the ground floor, the reconstructed building is accessible for disabled, waiting and first aid rooms were furnished for clients. It is important to highlight that the national partner contribution has been increased by almost 4 times (initial contribution was planned in the amount of 348 mln soums, now more than 1.3 billion soums) for reconstruction works of pilot court. Thank you for this demonstration of a strong partnership!
  • E-justice management system: Last but not least, the e-justice system has not only improved case management but has also led to a significant streamlining in procedures. Litigants can also track the status of their cases over internet, which means an important step towards service orientation. The e-justice management system was developed after thorough analysis, drawing on foreign experience, including from Malaysia and South Korea, which an Uzbek delegation visited last year.

In conclusion, I am confident that we are witnessing today the demonstration of carefully conceived and thought through improvements of court administration that will enhance service orientation – through the unified rules - and increase transparency and effectiveness – through the e-justice system. This is good news for better access to justice. I would like to express my appreciation to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan for the excellent cooperation and I look forward to a long standing and trusted partnership