Swiss and Austrian govts. continue to provide funds to bolster Bhutan’s judicial system

LSP: The Austrian and Swiss governments committed Nu 149.6M for the judiciary sector to support access to justice in Bhutan, with the launching of the joint legal sector programme (LSP) yesterday at Tashichhodzong.

Two new district courts will be constructed in Punakha and Wangduephodrang under the LSP.  The construction cost is estimated at Nu 46.3M and Nu 46.2M respectively.  Besides, 10 students will be provided scholarship to study law in renowned universities of Austria and Switzerland, while three future faculty members of the Royal Institute of Law (RIL) would get the opportunity to pursue studies overseas.

The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) will manage the LSP.  The implementing partners are the Supreme Court of Bhutan, Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland (FAC), Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) and RIL.

The GNHC secretary, Austrian Development Corporation’s (ADC) resident coordinator, Christine Jantscher, and head of cooperation of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), Matthias Meier, launched the joint LSP 2014-18.

GNHC officials said the LSP was also expected to boost institutional partnership between FAC and the Supreme Court of Bhutan through trainings.

Matthias Meier said that addressing legal needs of the vulnerable segments of society was a priority.

“This will strengthen the rule of law and Bhutan’s democracy,” Matthias Meier said.

The programme will also strive to enhance access to justice by supporting some Bhutanese civil society organisations to play important roles in providing legal aid and assistance.  GNHC officials said LSP supports the 11th Plan goals of three legal sector institutions – the Supreme Court of Bhutan, BNLI and RIL.

Austrian coordinator Christine Jantscher said the parties would ensure that funds were used efficiently, and envisaged sector results could be achieved with joint efforts.

GNHC secretary Sonam Wangchuk thanked the SDC and ADC for their continued support in strengthening the legal sector in Bhutan.

“Such assistance will help promote the good governance pillar of GNH,” he said.

The joint LSP is a consecutive phase of the previous joint programme funded by Switzerland and Austria from 2009 to 2014.

Since 2009, the project supported development of the judiciary sector through capacity building and construction of courts.

By Dechen Tshomo