Stefan Priesner: Opening Speech at the International Roundtable “Gradual Strengthening of Judiciary: Ensuring Judicial Independence”

Sep 26, 2014

Honorable Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, Mr. Shayunus Gaziev

Honorable Chairperson of Higher Economic Court, Mr. Kozimdjon Kamilov,

Your Excellencies, Messrs. Ambassadors György Szabó and Naythart Höfer-Wissing

Distinguished organizers and participants of this International roundtable, 

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be at this roundtable in beautiful Khorezm, where travelers, traders and scientists have exchanged goods, knowledge and wisdom for thousands of years on the cross roads of the Great Silk Road. 

It is therefore very appropriate to hold today’s event here in Urgench. At the outset I would like to highlight the significance of the event, borrowing a quote from the President of Uzbekistan, who said in his 2010 concept on “Deepening of further democratization and formation of civil society”: 

One of the key priorities of the democratic renewal of the country is consistent democratization, liberalization of the judicial system, aimed at ensuring the rule of law, protection of the rights and freedoms of the individual, in short, - formation of the rule of law and sense of justice in the public. …. The complex of organizational and legal measures has been undertaken for the independence and autonomy of the court, …. designed to reliably protect and defend the human rights and freedoms”.

Judicial independence is an indispensable part of the right to due process, the rule of law and democracy. This is why I am confident that today’s event will explore important issues that lie at the heart of implementing this strategic vision of an effective and independent justice system, where legitimate interests and rights of citizens are put at the center. 

Indeed there is no nobler cause than improving justice.  Great Socrates 2500 years already said: ‘Nothing is to be preferred before justice’. And to move from a justice system towards delivering justice as fair and effective remedy is a constant travel of improvement, a travel that never stops. 

It is worth noting that this is very much in line with the current global thinking that is just being developed by UN member states to define “the world we want” (this is the label) by 2030. How should the world look like in 15 years? Part of the answer is that all countries should make progress in a number of economic and social goals that are deemed universal – eradicating poverty, universal education and health care, equitable economic growth. These goals are not new, but what is new is that one of the goals includes “access to justice”, recognizing that access to a fair and effective remedy is as essential as education and health. This is because an effective justice system provides a level playing field for all, including the most disadvantaged to seek and obtain justice for incurred grievances and injustices. 

Distinguished participants,

The theme of today’s conference - ensuring independence - is the heart of a well functioning judiciary  and is a fundamental principle in upholding the rule of law.

We all know that judicial independence means that both the institution of the judiciary and individual judges are free (and importantly: are perceived to be free) from interference from other institutions and individuals.  And we are all aware about the institutional safe guards – constitutional mandate, control over budget and expenditures, management of court administration, mechanisms of judicial appointment, security of tenure, adequate training and continuing legal education. And I would like to commend the organizers that today’s conference is expected to discuss these aspects in detail and come up with comprehensive proposals to move this important agenda forward. 

UNDP’s view of promoting independent and fair justice uses best international experience and is based on fundamental human rights and freedoms in accordance with UN human rights conventions. UNDP supports national partners to strengthen justice systems, enable empowerment of disadvantaged groups to get access to effective legal remedies, and strengthen sustainable development based on the rule of law and non-discrimination. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNDP is proud to be a partner of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan and its affiliated Research Center to support the civil justice reform through effective court administration systems and procedures. E-justice tools are contributing to this goal. In only one year significant achievements have been made – this was demonstrated last year in Zangiata district court, which was a pilot that was later replicated at larger scale.

We will look forward to further strengthen our partnership through the launch of new project on Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan which is co-funded by USAID. This new project will focus on strengthening public access to and trust in Uzbekistan’s civil court system. It is based on three major components:

  • Institutional feedback mechanisms for citizens on the issues of court administration;
  • Upgrading the continuous training and learning system for judges, lawyers, and court personnel based on the international best practices; 
  • Improved court management system ensuring judicial integrity and easy access of citizens to dispute resolution.

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 independence, service orientation and increase transparency and effectiveness. 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 look forward to a long standing and trusted partnership.

Thank you. 

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