The Mongolian judicial sector and its reform has been evaluated from almost every possible angle by experts from various countries and organizations. The latest study in this area, the Judicial Integrity Scan, was conducted earlier this year by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). GIZ project coordinator L.Zaya who managed this project gave an overview of the study result in the interview below.
How was the Mongolian judicial sector evaluated through the international study? Why was it necessary to conduct this type of study?
First of all, let me introduce the organization. GIZ is owned by the German government. It’s a public-benefit federal enterprise that provides services worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. GIZ begun its cooperation with Mongolia in legal and judicial sectors in 1995. Within this framework, many projects were carried out for developing the legal framework for individuals and enterprises; organizing training for judges, prosecutors and lawyers; strengthening the capacity of legal organizations; and introducing modern technological solutions to the judicial sector and more.
At the beginning of this year, GIZ requested to comprehensively study the Mongolian judicial sector from the Judicial General Council of Mongolia. In a way, this is like an inspection. GIZ implements all kinds of projects in over 180 countries. It has experts specialized in every field and has an independent team specialized in human rights and legal environment. Three years ago, this team developed a methodology to evaluate how courts across the globe implement the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct from all aspects. Around 300 questions were inquired from Mongolia regarding the court’s inclusiveness, accessibility and integrity; Mongolia’s legal environment for judiciary; the consistency of Mongolian rules of judicial conduct with international standards; operation of the qualification committee; and questions about the sub-structure, working environment and independency of the court. Experts were sent to Mongolia to survey the Judicial General Court, Mongolian judges, court administrators, the Mongolian Bar Association, and media representatives; and to verify, compare and review the Mongolian judicial system.
The study must’ve required a lot of preparation. How was the study conducted? Can you verify that the study was completed without any external influence?
The preparation work took a lot of time. Two of our best senior advisers in charge of planning and implementation of legal projects worked on this study. They personally reviewed operations o Mongolian courts by visiting courts in the city and rural settlement, and meeting with many judges and other specialists.
There is nothing to worry about regarding the validity or independency of the study because an independent and qualified team is sent to subject countries to evaluate the judicial neutrality, independency, integrity, equality, and capacity in accordance with international standards.
…Mongolia executes sustainable measures for strengthening judicial power and reform through a general policy. The Mongolian court is well aware that it provides service to the public, according to the study result…
Was the result of the study different from what you expected? What kind of positive and negative discoveries were made through the Judicial Integrity Scan?
The first thing we noticed after making an integrated report on the Mongolian Judicial Reform was that the Mongolia judicial sector performed much better than other countries with similar social and economic situation. Majority of international standards established by the Judicial Integrity Group were reflected in the law and are enforced in judicial practices. It was evaluated that the judicial transparency and accessibility is fully ensured in Mongolia.
That sounds wonderful. Did Mongolia have this type of international evaluation conducted before?
It’s been over 10 years since a study was conducted on the general development of the Mongolian judicial system, as well as a public assessment on this topic. As far as I remember, the latest report on the Mongolian judicial sector was released in 2008 by an American researcher. It caused quite a sensation as it exposed all inadequate and lacking sides of Mongolia in shocking detail.
The American researcher concluded that the Mongolian court misunderstood the public and that judges are highly prone to bribery and corruption, causing unexpected concern among experts. The study we did is named “Judicial Integrity Scan” and its main focus is on the implementation of the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 2003.
Is the Judicial Integrity Scan conducted in many countries? How many countries have undergone this study so far?
We have to thank members of the Judicial General Council, judges, and administrators for participating in our work. Very few countries voluntarily agree to participate in this type of study.
In the past, four countries voluntarily agreed to have a study on judicial sector conducted. Now Mongolia is the fifth country to do so. Compared to these countries, Mongolia showed the highest results and received the best evaluation. The most notable outcome was that the fact that Mongolia executes sustainable measures for strengthening judicial power and reform through a general policy. The Mongolian court is well aware that it provides service to the public, according to the study result.
Considering these aspects, it was considered that the Mongolian court and judicial administration is independent, economically stable, and ensures independency of judges so that they aren’t exposed to any external influence. The report states that these accomplishments boosted the public trust in the court, improved judges and associated people’s attitude toward their work, and fundamentally eliminated corruption and bribery in the judicial sector. The study proves that wage increase for judges impact greatly on eliminating external influences on them.
…Until recently, the public feared the court because it was known to govern and enforce authority…
Can you elaborate on the court being a service provider?
This is a relatively new concept. Until recently, the public feared the court because it was known to govern and enforce authority. If we look further, many preferred not taking matters to court. Now, this has changed and it is a huge achievement for the judicial sector. At present, the public trusts that the court will protect their rights. This is an incredible achievement to make within such a short period of time.
How did international researchers evaluate the publicizing of court decisions on the official website of the Judicial General Board?
GIZ researchers and experts praised Mongolia’s accomplishment of making the Mongolian judicial sector completely transparent. Publicizing court decisions and keeping it transparent restricts judges from making any professional error. Having professionals study everything and enhancing public supervision improves the general structure.
Nowadays, people can’t file a lawsuit or go to court without an attorney like they used to in the past. Even so, it’s necessary to regularly check whether court decisions are kept 100 percent transparent to the public.
It’s not exactly right to reveal people’s full names, address and details of judges. Revealing such information is connected to how a nation runs but I’m sure this matter will be properly discussed and managed in the future.
…Relatively young people with inadequate life experience are becoming judges. This is one of the issues we must pay attention to in the future…
The study result mentioned that Mongolia took a step back in terms of judges’ wage. Can you clarify on this?
The report states that the previous wage increase for judges was adequate for their livelihood, but experts considered removing the article in the law about not cutting wages of judges as a drawback.
Parliament also revoked the article in the law, specifying that the court must have adequate budget for operations. Though this decision was made based on the current economic situation, international specialists view this as a step back in terms of financial stability for the Mongolian court.
Mongolian judges receive high salary now but they haven’t had this kind of support until recently. Just a few years ago, some judges used to have debt at nearby stores and shops. Moreover, judges have to frequently go on business trips and appointments.
Families of judges appointed to rural communities can’t have a stable job. There are many judges who had to move to various places within the last 10 years due to transfer to rural settlement. Their homes are usually rented, not owned. Some people don’t realize that judges actually have to take care of their family and be the breadwinner. We must take occupational characteristics of judges into account because they restrict most of their rights. In that sense, Mongolia must take a step back in terms of judges’ wages.
Besides positive achievements, what kind of recommendations were advocated?
Researchers’ reports included some recommendations that require urgent attention. They recommended elongating the duration of training for new judges and then, enabling them to resolve cases and disputes. In Germany, new judges are trained for half a year before being allowed to judge and resolve cases. I’m pretty sure that most Mongolians are aware that it isn’t easy to become a doctor or lawyer in Germany. Relatively young people with inadequate life experience are becoming judges. This is one of the issues we must pay attention to in the future.
Other recommendations were related to skills and capabilities of lawyers, urgent need for training and other issues. This comprehensive study on the judicial sector is highly significant for the future policy for judicial reform.