June 7, 2005
Jeff Renz and Greg Munro are fighting to save the law clinic in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Over the next two months, their Kyrgyzstan Diary will appear as a regular blog feature.
KYRGYZSTAN DIARY (with apologies to our good friend and Montanan, Thomas Goltz.)
I think that clinicians have a look about them. I see it in Alan Kirtley of the University of Washington, Larry Weiser at Gonzaga, and others. It is that joyful, love our students and speak truth to power, look. Akjol Berdiev and Jenish Arzymatov of the Human Rights and Democracy Centre in Osh, Krygyzstan, have that look. These guys are the original clinicians in Central Asia, the way we think of the original clinicians in the USA. When the Centre was founded in the 1990s with the help of the Soros Fund and OSCE-DIR, Berdiev and Arzymatov took their roles seriously. They attended every ABA-CEELI training session on clinical legal education that they could find. Then they took the lessons back to Osh.
When I first visited them in 2003, when the University of Montana was searching for a Kyrgyzstan university to partner with, I was astounded. The best students in the law faculty worked in their clinic. Their students hung out in the clinic. Their teaching, mentoring, and other methods were ours. They used mock exercises, role plays, demonstrations, videotapes of student performances, as well as the normal lecture.
The Centre enrolls 40-60 students from a 1,200 student law faculty. They operate a criminal defense clinic, a civil law clinic, and a street law clinic. They take on strategic projects, the most recent of which is a project to teach young people to monitor elections. It may also be, in light of the March "revolution" and the coming July elections, their most important strategic initiative. This year may be their last.
We all know that you live and die by grants. Montana lost two clinicians (and Gonzaga gained one) when we lost two Department of Education grants in the mid-1990s. For the same reasons our grant funding ends, the Centre's is due to end in 2005. If the Centre ceases to exist, the loss will extend beyond the loss of the program. The Clinic is a filter for the good students.
Kyrgyzstan is a place where you buy your grades and your degrees. Today I met a young woman, the head of the Academic Honesty project at Osh State. She had just finished one of her exams. "Only two of us refused to pay to pass the exam," she said. "The rest paid."
The Centre selects students for ability, not for connections or for money. The students who come out of the Centre will be the lawyers who will, sometime in the future, once a critical mass is achieved, develop a code of ethics and professionalism, and root out corruption that is endemic in a dispute resolution system that is known any where else as the justice system. But not if the Centre does not survive.
I came to Osh in 2005 to expand the clinical education program. Now my mission may be to save it. We will keep you up to date in future diaries. Prof. Greg Munro and I will offer some more insights into Kyrgyzstan and its wonderful people in future diaries, thanks to the Blog. Rakhmat, da zaftra.
Prof. Jeff Renz is the Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at The University of Montana School of Law. His colleague, Prof. Greg Munro, is the Law School's Director of Professional Skills.
June 7, 2005 | Permalink
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