The disciplinary committee of the judicial council has been operating in Kyrgyzstan for slightly more than one year. According to the law, it reviews cases against judges who have violated the law. However, according to lawyers and human rights defenders, the agency that should make impartial judgements has turned to be prejudiced and politically charged.
The disciplinary committee consists of nine members. The president proposed three members, the parliament proposes three members, and the judiciary proposes three members.
Individuals, legal entities, state bodies, local governments, their employees, as well as chairmen of justices of the Kyrgyz Republic may file applications against the actions of judges. The members of the committee may issue a warning, a reprimand or suggest releasing from office.
According to the law “On disciplinary committee of the judicial council of the Kyrgyz Republic”, it is an independent and collegial body. However, the committee has been accused many times of highly politically charged attitude and of selective attitude to complaints.
“I have filed a complaint about the chairman of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court Mr. Kasymaliev to the committee, when the then judge of the Constitutional Chamber Klara Sooronkulova has been suspended due to some complaint. Clearly, it’s been a politically charged case. However, the committee has not even considered my complaint,” Nurbek Toktakunov, the head of the Precedent Public Association, said.
According to him, the presence of political actors in the disciplinary committee doesn’t mean its political nature at all. It says about the balance of political forces.
“Unfortunately, our political competition is full of dominating state apparatus and the system of checks and balances has failed here. In fact, the president controls the judiciary, the parliament and the government,” the lawyer said.
In turn, the ex-judge of the Constitutional Chamber, Klara Sooronkulova, has analysed the activities of the disciplinary committee, where she has pointed out that the lawful procedure for selection of the members of this body violates the international standards of the independence of the judiciary. Therefore, the applicable law needs to be amended.
“We should avoid any control over judicial councils or disciplinary bodies by the executive branch and other persons from the outside. Independence and impartiality of the disciplinary body largely depend on its members,” Sooronkulova said.
According to her, the rules of the committee’s composition should be amended to ensure that the legislative or executive branches have no decisive influence on this committee.
Human rights activist Rita Karasartova, who also thinks that the composition of the committee should be changed to ensure the impartiality of decisions made, agrees with this opinion, too:
In February 2017, the police initiated a criminal case against blind poet Temirlan Ormukov. MP Dastan Bekeshev filed a lawsuit against him because of his post on Facebook saying that the MP received money from businessmen dealing in right-hand drive vehicles for lobbying their interests in the parliament.
The police didn’t find any proof of these facts and initiated a criminal case for the intentional false accusation of crime. In September, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Bishkek ordered that poet Temirlan Ormukov be arrested for one month. The city court upheld this decision.
The poet was put into a temporary detention facility and then into a pre-trial detention centre. One month later, Ormukov slashed across his stomach with the blade in protest in the office of the investigating officer. And later on, he filed a complaint to the General Prosecutor Office for spending 12 more days in custody. The regulatory body initiated a criminal case against the three judges of the Supreme Court: Kachyke Esenkanov, Kanybek Bokoyev and Arzybek Akyev. They were accused of negligence and abuse of office.
The disciplinary committee upheld the recommendation of the General Prosecutor Office, but only one of the three judges – Arzybek Akyev – was issued a reprimand.
In her comment on this decision to the media, Klara Sooronkulova has called it a trick.
“A citizen should not be held in custody even for an hour for no reason. A 12-day detention is a major violation. In my opinion, the disciplinary committee believes the judges are guilty, so it has decided to impose some kind of punishment on them and reprimanded Akyev as the reporter of the activist’s case. This is just a trick,” Sooronkulova said (cited from Azattyk).
This May, the head of the Adilet legal clinic, Cholpon Dzhakupova, filed two complaints about the judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court, Kymbat Arkharova, who is also a chairperson of the committee, to the disciplinary committee. She has reviewed the cases on protection of honour and dignity of Almazbek Atambaev against Zanoza.kg website, its founders Narynbek Idinov and Dina Maslova, as well as against Dzhakupova.
The lawyer has emphasised that judge Arkharova has committed a disciplinable offence by “repeated major violations of law” when making the decision. However, the committee has confined itself to “formal replies” to repeated complaints and proofs of such violations.
“But if we read the replies to our complaints, they are nothing more than formal replies, whose content doesn’t matter. It means that the biggest problem of ours is the decline of state administration bodies,” Dzhakupova said.
In November 2017, the Bishkek City Court delivered a judgement in the criminal case against parliamentarian Aida Salianova, member of Ata Meken faction. Her colleague, member of Respublika Ata Zhurt faction, Altynai Omurbekova, said that she was going to apply to the disciplinary committee to discuss the behaviour of judges who examined the ex-prosecutor’s case and to see how the new structure worked.
During her interview to the journalist, Omurbekova has admitted she doesn’t remember if she filed the complaint to the disciplinary committee regarding Salianova’s case. She has explained that she has filed complaints, but they have concerned other matters. And she, just like Cholpon Dzhakupova, has not been satisfied with the committee’s replies.
“They have sent some replies, which have been somewhat formal. And I haven’t been satisfied with them,” the parliamentarian summarised.
The situation is getting worse
This March, human rights activists and the legal community prepared a black list of judges who, in their opinion, are corrupt and implement a political put-up job. The list contains Kymbat Arkharova, as well.
According to Rita Karasartova, who is one of the authors of the black list of judges, the judicial system of Kyrgyzstan lacks transparency. According to her, some reforms are happening, but the situation is getting even worse in terms of scale.
“When they initiate any fake struggle, they always bring political undesirables to responsibility. And we do know the judges who always implement a political put-up job and such judges always come out clean. If the members of the disciplinary committee keep us advised of every investigation, and it is openly broadcasted, then we could speak of transparency to some extent,” Karasartova said.
We’ve failed to learn about the committee’s activity and results of work from its members. In particular, the chairperson of the committee, Kymbat Arkharova, has ignored our request for a brief interview several times. We have contacted her personal assistant or her secretary only. The latter has referred to a press conference scheduled for the end of December by the committee’s members and said we could ask questions there.
“Even if this press conference is not held, you’d better ask all your questions after the date specified,” the committee added.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.