Asia: Mongolia must consolidate transformation toward independent justice system with human rights at its core

Ulaanbaaatar, November 15,  2023.- A UN expert today welcomed steps Mongolia has taken to improve the independence of its judiciary since its transition to democracy in 1990, in particular the strides taken to implement human rights recommendations made by international bodies.

“Mongolia must seize the moment to complete the transformation it has begun,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers at the end of her official visit to the country. “I welcome Mongolia’s evidence-based approach to reform and call for further action to solidify an independent justice system with human rights at its core.”

The Special Rapporteur visited courts and prosecutors’ offices in Ulaanbaatar, Selenge province, Mandal soum, and the district of Baganuur, where she met with committed professionals. She also witnessed the damaging impact of the lack of investment on the judiciary, including inadequate, inaccessible, and insecure facilities for judges, staff and court users. “Mongolian Judges are underpaid and often overworked,” the expert said. “Together with their assistants, they deserve to be recognised for their dedication in the face of these difficult conditions.”

Satterthwaite urged Mongolia to provide robust funding to secure the future of the justice system, including by dedicating a guaranteed percentage of the national budget to the judiciary.

Measures comparable to those taken to strengthen the judiciary should now be implemented in the prosecutorial service. “Appointments, transfers and promotions should have an objective and transparent basis,” she said. “In addition, an independent body should be established to oversee discipline and provide accountability.”

The Special Rapporteur commended civil society for their work to assess and monitor the independence of the judiciary. She was concerned that surveys highlighted a lack of trust in the judiciary and heard that social media is being used to disparage judges, including by holders of public office. “It is imperative that the government take measures to rebuild public trust,” Satterthwaite said. “This is an opportunity for the government to better explain the important role the judiciary plays in upholding a fair system where everyone can participate equally.”

Satterthwaite observed that the government is responsible for protecting the rights of all people in Mongolia and ensuring they have access to justice without discrimination. “I call on all actors to support and complement the essential work undertaken by civil society organisations to extend access to justice, including to rural herders, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.”

The expert will present a report containing her findings and recommendations on the visit to the Human Rights Council in June 2024.

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