JUSTICE SYSTEM IN MONGOLIA

JUSTICE SYSTEM IN MONGOLIA

The Mongols did not create a legal system until the Genghis Khan era in the 13th century. The Mongol legal systems included categories ranging from religious to criminal law. In the early 20th century Mongolian criminals wore wooden placards around their neck on which their crime was spelled out for all to see. In the Soviet era, a Soviet-style legal system was imposed but everyday affairs were still regulated primarily by social censure. On the justice system today, an American businessman told the New York Times, “The court system is totally, unbelievably corrupt. The judges get bribes. There is no ability to execute judgements.”

Legal system: civil law system influenced by Soviet, Chinese, Turkish and Romano-Germanic legal systems; constitution ambiguous on judicial review of legislative acts. Subordinate courts: aimag (provincial) and capital city appellate courts; soum, inter-soum, and district courts. The Administrative Cases Courts was established in 2004. International law organization participation: has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

People have traditionally shown total respect for local khans, emirs or chiefs, who in turn have traditionally not shared power or limited it by law. Social control has traditionally been exerted through public opinion, especially that of local elders.

The justice system is modeled after the Soviet justice system. There is no freedom in the justice in political and criminal trials the conviction rate is over 99 percent. Judges have been called "shamefully compliant." One judge dismissed claims of torture victim because "they couldn’t name their torturers."

Judicial branch: highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the Chief Justice and 24 judges organized into civil, criminal, and administrative chambers); Constitutional Court or Tsets (consists of a chairman and 8 members). Judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice and judges appointed by the president upon recommendation to the State Great Hural by the General Council of Courts, a 14-member body of judges and judicial officials; term of appointment is for life; chairman of the Constitutional Court elected from among its members; members appointed by the State Great Hural upon nominations - 3 each by the president, the State Great Hural, and the Supreme Court; term of appointment is 6 years; chairmanship limited to a single renewable 3-year term. =

Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, the structure of the courts and the procuraturates was based on the 1960 Constitution, and the 1963 Code of Criminal Procedure set out the rules for their operation. The 1961 Criminal Code determined which acts were criminal and the punishment allotted for those crimes, placing heavy emphasis on crimes against the state and crimes against socialist ownership. Around the time Mongolia became free from Soviet domination in the late 1980s and 90s all of these documents were under reviewed and many were revised or replaced. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Judiciary According to Mongolian Constitution

The section of the Mongolian constitution on the judiciary reads: Article Forty seven: 1) In Mongolia the judicial power shall be vested exclusively in courts. 2) The unlawful establishment of a court under any circumstances and exercise of judicial power by any organization other than court shall be prohibited. 3) Courts shall be established solely under the Constitution and other laws.

Article Forty eight: 1) The judicial system shall consist of the Supreme Court, Aimag and capital city courts, Soum, inter-soum and District courts. Specialized courts such as criminal, civil and administrative courts may be formed. The activities and decisions of these specialized courts shall not but be outside the supervision of the Supreme Court. 2) The organization of courts and the legal basis of their activities shall be determined by law. 3) The courts shall be financed from the State budget. The State shall ensure economic guarantee of the court's activities.

Article Forty nine: 1) Judges shall be independent and subject only to law. 2) Neither a private person nor any official including the President, Prime Minister, members of the State Ikh Khural and the Government, officials of political parties or other mass organizations shall interfere with the exercise by the judges of their duties. 3) The General Council of Courts shall function for the purpose of ensuring the independence of the judiciary. 4) The General Council of Courts, without interfering in the activities of courts and judges, shall deal exclusively with the selection of judges from among legal professionals, protection of their rights and other matters pertaining to the ensuring of conditions for guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. 5) The organization and procedures of the General Council of Courts shall be determined by law.

Article Fifty: 1) The Supreme Court shall be the highest judicial organ and shall exercise the following power: 1)) to try at first instance criminal cases and legal disputes under its jurisdiction; 2)) to examine decisions of lower-instance courts through appeal and supervision; 3)) to examine and take decisions on matters related to the protection of law and human rights and freedoms therein and transferred to it by the Constitutional court and the Prosecutor General; 4)) to provide official interpretations for correct application of all other laws except for the Constitution; 5)) to make judgments on all other matters assigned to it by law. 2) The decision made by the Supreme Court shall be a final judiciary decision and shall be binding upon all courts and other persons. If a decision made by the Supreme Court is incompatible with law, the Supreme Court itself shall have to repeal it. If an interpretation made by the Supreme Court is incompatible with a law, the latter shall prevail. 3) The Supreme Court and other courts shall have no right to apply laws that are unconstitutional or have not been promulgated officially.

Article Fifty one: 1) The Supreme Court shall comprise the Chief Justice and judges. 2) The President shall appoint the judges of the Supreme Court upon their presentation to the State Ikh Khural by the General Council of Courts, and appoint judges of other courts on the proposal of the General Council of Courts. The President shall appoint the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a term of six years on proposal of the Supreme Court from among its members. 3) A Mongolian citizen who has reached thirty-five years of age with a higher education in law and a professional career of not less than 10 years may be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. A Mongolian citizen who has reached twenty-five years of age with a higher education in law and a professional career of not less than 3 years my be appointed as a judge of the other courts. 4. Removal of a judge from a court of any instance shall be prohibited except in cases where he/she is relieved at his/her own request or removed on the grounds provided for in the Constitution and/or the Law on the judiciary and by a valid court decision.

Article Fifty two: 1) Courts of all instances shall consider and make judgment on cases and disputes on the basis of collective decision-making. 2) In passing a collective decision on cases and disputes, the courts of first instance shall allow representatives of citizens to participate in the proceedings in accordance with the procedures prescribed by law. 3) A judge alone may decide those cases, which are specifically singled out for such trial by law.

Article Fifty three: 1) Court trials shall be conducted in the Mongolian language. 2) A person who does not know Mongolian shall be acquainted with all the facts of the case through translation and shall have the right to presentation in his/her native language at the trial. Article Fifty four Court trials shall be open to the public except in cases specified by law.

Article Fifty five: 1) The accused shall have a right to defend him/herself. 2) The accused shall be accorded legal assistance according to law or at his/her request. Article Fifty six: 1) The Prosecutor shall exercise supervision over the inquiry into and investigation of cases and the execution of punishment, and participate in the court trial on behalf of the State. 2) The President shall appoint the Prosecutor General and his/her deputies in consultation with the State Ikh Khural for a term of six years. 3) The system, organization and legal basis of the activities of the Prosecutor’s organization shall be determined by law.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: An evidence-based, prosecutor-approved warrant is generally required to arrest a suspect. Within 72 hours of an arrest, a prosecutor must present a request stating the grounds and reasons for the arrest to a judge, who must decide within 48 hours whether to prolong the detention or release the suspect. The arresting authority must notify a suspect’s family within 24 hours of an arrest. A “pressing circumstances” exception in the law allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant. Examples of these circumstances include finding a suspect at a crime, hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, reasonable suspicion of involvement in a grave crime, and unavailability of a judge. In such cases, a prosecutor must approve the arrest within 24 hours, and a judge must approve the arrest within the normal 48-hour period. If 72 hours pass after an arrest and a judge has not made a decision, the suspect is released. Upon release, the suspect must be notified of the reasons for detention. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

Although the law clearly defines the grounds on which a suspect may be detained, the grounds for release are not clear; according to the NHRC, this sometimes resulted in long-term, legally permitted detentions of up to 30 months. The NHRC reported that investigative agencies occasionally detained suspects without charge when conducting investigations and that police tended to detain such suspects despite the availability of other methods of restraint, including bail (with the approval of a prosecutor), another person’s personal guarantee, a signed note in which the suspect pledges not to depart, and military surveillance. The personal guarantee system allows relatives to vouch for an accused family member (unlike bail, the system does not involve pledged security in exchange for release). This system is available for all types of crimes, although it is typically applied to those accused of less serious offenses. /*/

Despite these problems, detainees generally were charged and informed promptly of the charges against them and of their right to counsel. The maximum pretrial detention with a court order is 24 months, with an additional six months allowed for particularly serious charges such as murder. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members, although repeated transfers or detention in remote locations could undermine this right. /*/

A detainee has the right to an attorney during pretrial detention and all subsequent stages of the legal process, including after sentencing. If a defendant cannot afford a private attorney, the government must appoint one. Detainees were reportedly more aware of their right to legal counsel than in the past, but misperceptions limited their use of this right. For example, detainees were frequently unaware that they were able to exercise this right from the start of the legal process and frequently did not assert it unless and until their cases reached trial. In addition, in some cases repeated transfers or detention in remote locations made access to legal counsel difficult. /*/

Access to a Fair Trial and Judicial Fairness in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but NGOs and private businesses have reported that corruption and outside influence continued. Courts rarely entered not-guilty verdicts or dismissed criminal charges over the objection of prosecutors, even in those instances in which full trials had produced no substantial evidence of guilt. Criminal cases were often returned to prosecutors when acquittal appeared more appropriate. As a result, some serious criminal cases cycle without resolution between the prosecutors and the courts for years. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State]

Administrative and judicial remedies are available for alleged human rights violations. Corruption, outside influence, and lack of enforcement of court orders were problems in the civil judicial system. Private enterprises reported cases where government employees pressured businesses to pay bribes to take action on applications, obtain permits, and complete registrations. Although by law victims of police abuse can sue for damages, few succeeded in claiming compensation. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

Trial Procedures in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The law provides for the right to a fair public trial by a judge, although NGOs and observers reported that bribery of judges, prosecutors, and expert witnesses sometimes contributed to unwarranted convictions, dismissals, or reductions of sentences. Judicial authorities cited a 2013 salary increase for judges as improving the situation. Juries are not used. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and can question witnesses and present evidence. They have the right to be informed of the charges against them (with interpretation as necessary, including sign language interpretation); to a fair, public trial without undue delay; to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or one provided at public expense); to receive adequate time to prepare a defense; to access government-held evidence; and to appeal. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or to confess guilt. These rights were imperfectly observed. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

Procedural due process errors and inconsistencies often plagued trials. Although the number of government-provided defense lawyers was adequate, their quality and experience were uneven, so that many defendants lacked adequate legal representation. Judges often relied on confessions with little corroborating evidence. Additionally, NGOs reported witness intimidation by government authorities and law enforcement officers, limited public access to trials (often due to lack of space), and an overall lack of transparency in courts’ decision-making processes. /*/

Criminal prosecutions, civil litigation, and administrative hearings stemming from a single incident were often merged into a single court proceeding. The law recognizes “civil defendants in criminal prosecutions” who are compelled to appear throughout a trial but participate only in the civil aspects of the proceedings.

History of Criminal Justice System in Mongolia

The Mongol legal heritage, based on a nomadic pastoral culture, first was unified and codified in the yasaq. The yasaq, promulgated in 1229, contained directives on state administration and military discipline, criminal law, private law, and special customs for the steppe region. It served as a basis for a more extensive legal code during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

With the breakup of the Mongol empire, Mongol tribes returned to earlier customs. In 1640 an alliance of Mongol princes drafted the Mongol-Oirad Regulations, characterized by the strong influence of Lamaism and by considerably milder punishments than foreign codes of the time or previous Mongol codes. Under Qing Dynasty rule, Mongol laws and customs were combined with Chinese law.*

In an effort to improve on some of the harsher aspects of the criminal justice system, the Mongolian government, in 1922, abolished various investigative tortures and corporal punishments left over from the Qing period. A November 1925 law on judicial reform provided that courts were to be guided by new laws and that punishment should be to protect public order and to reeducate criminals. The old system remained in effect, however, except when superseded by the new regulations.*

The first criminal code of the Mongolian People's Republic, adopted on October 21, 1926, established a statutory basis for the control of crime and disorder. It consisted of 227 articles in 31 chapters, and it applied extensive criminal regulations and sanctions to citizens and foreigners. That code was replaced on September 23, 1929, by a new criminal code with modifications reflecting the political struggle taking place in Mongolia at that time. The 1929 code remained in effect for five years. It was replaced by the 1934 criminal code, which was adopted in two stages--the general part, confirmed on May 24, 1934, and a special part, confirmed on October 8, 1934, that expanded the scope of "counterrevolutionary" crimes and added a chapter on military crimes. The 1934 code was in turn replaced on January 17, 1942, by a code reflecting the changes in society and the influences of World War II. The 1942 code remained in effect, with numerous amendments, until January 31, 1961, when the code still in use in 1989 was confirmed.*

Mongolia's first constitution, adopted by the National Great Hural on November 26, 1924, established a state structure, including courts and procuraturates, based on the Soviet system. The 1924 constitution was replaced by the 1940 constitution, closely modeled on the 1936 Soviet constitution. The 1940 constitution was replaced by the Constitution adopted on July 6, 1960. Later amendments to the 1960 Constitution increased the terms of Supreme Court members and procurators from three to four years and the terms of the members of city and people's courts from two to three years. *

Yassa: Genghis Khan's Code of Laws

Yassa was a secret written code of law created by Genghis Khan. The word Yassa translates into "order" or "decree". It was the de facto law of the Mongol Empire even though the "law" was kept secret and never made public. The Yassa seems to have its origin as decrees issued in wartime. Later, these decrees were codified and expanded to include cultural and life-style conventions. By keeping the Yassa secret, the decrees could be modified and used selectively. It is believed that the Yassa was supervised by Genghis Khan himself and his stepbrother Shihihutag who was then high judge of the Mongol Empire. Genghis Khan appointed his second son Chagatai (later Chagatai Khan) to oversee the execution of the laws. [Source: Wikipedia]

The famous historian Harold Lamb wrote: “With the selection of Genghis Khan as master of the Turko-Mongol people, these people were united for the first time in centuries. They were enthusiastic, believing that Genghis Khan was sent from the gods and endowed with the power of Heaven. They had long been governed only by tribal custom, and, to hold them in check, Genghis Khan drew from his Mongol military organization and also created a code of laws, the Yassa, which was a combination of his will and tribal customs. [Source: “Genghis Khan – Emperor of All Men,” by Harold Lamb International Collections Library, Garden City, New York, 1927, Macrohistory and World Timeline, fsmitha.com . The laws of Genghis Khan have been translated from Petis de la Croix. He was unable to get a complete list of the laws – a "Yassa Gengizcani." These 22 rulings have been taken from various sources, the Persian chroniclers, and Fras Rubruquis and Carpini. The list is incomplete and has come down to us from alien sources \^/]

The Yassa aimed at three things: obedience to Genghis Khan, a binding together of the nomad clans, and the merciless punishment of wrong-doing. It concerned itself with people, not property. Unless a man actually confessed, he was not judged guilty unless he was caught in the act of crime. Among the Mongols – who did not read – a man's spoken word was a solemn matter. \^/

The Laws of Genghis Khan: 1) It is ordered to believe that there is only one God, creator of heaven and earth, who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty as pleases Him – and who has over everything an absolute power. 2) Leaders of a religion, preachers, monks, persons who are dedicated to religious practice, the criers of mosques, physicians and those who bathe the bodies of the dead are to be freed from public charges. 3) It is forbidden under penalty of death that any one, whoever he may be, shall be proclaimed emperor unless he has been elected previously by the princes, khans, officers and other Mongol nobles in a general council. \^/

4) It is forbidden chieftains of nations and clans subject to the Mongols to hold honorary titles. 5) Forbidden to ever make peace with a monarch, a prince or a people who have not submitted. 6) The ruling that divides men of the army into tens, hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands is to be maintained. This arrangement serves to raise an army in a short time, and to form raw units of commands. 7) The moment a campaign begins, each soldier must receive his arms from the hand of the officer who has them in charge. The soldier must keep them in good order, and have them inspected by his officer before a battle. 8) Forbidden, under the death penalty, to pillage the enemy before the general commanding gives permission; but after this permission is given the soldier must have the same opportunity as the officer, and must be allowed to keep what he has carried off, provided he has paid his share to the receiver for the emperor. \^/

9) To keep the men of the army exercised, a great hunt shall be held every winter. On this account, it is forbidden any man of the empire to kill from the month of March to October, deer, bucks, roe-bucks, hares, wild ass and some birds. 10) Forbidden, to cut the throats of animals slain for food; they must be bound, the chest opened and the heart pulled out by the hand of the hunter. 11) It is permitted to eat the blood and entrails of animals – though this was forbidden before now. 12) (A list of privileges and immunities assured to the chieftains and officers of the new empire.) 13) Every man who does not go to war must work for the empire, without reward, for a certain time. \^/

14) Men guilty of the theft of a horse or steer or a thing of equal value will be punished by death and their bodies cut into two parts. For lesser thefts the punishment shall be, according to the value of the thing stolen, a number of blows of a staff – seven, seventeen, twenty-seven, up to seven hundred. But this bodily punishment may be avoided by paying nine tines the worth if the thing stolen. 15) No subject of the empire may take a Mongol for servant or slave. Every man, except in rare cases, must join the army. 16) To prevent the flight of alien slaves, it is forbidden to give them asylum, food or clothing, under pain of death. Any man who meets an escaped slave and does not bring him back to his master will be punished in the same manner. \^/

17) The law of marriage orders that every man shall purchase his wife, and that marriage between the first and second degrees of kinship is forbidden. A man may marry two sisters, or have several concubines. The women should attend to the care of property, buying and selling at their pleasure. Men should occupy themselves only with hunting and war. Children born of slaves are legitimate as the children of wives. The offspring of the first woman shall be honored above other children and shall inherit everything. \^/

18) Adultery is to be punished by death, and those guilty of it may be slain out of hand. 19) If two families wish to be united by marriage and have only young children, the marriage of these children is allowed, if one be a boy and the other a girl. If the children are dead, the marriage contract may still be drawn up. 20) It is forbidden to bathe or wash garments in running water during thunder. 21) Spies, false witnesses, all men given to infamous vices, and sorcerers are condemned to death. 22) Officers and chieftains who fail in their duty, or do not come at the summons of the Khan are to be slain, especially in remote districts. If their offense be less grave, they must come in person before the Khan. \^/

Justice System in Mongolia in the Soviet Era

The legal system in the Soviet era was administered by courts and Office of the Procurator of the Republic--appointed to five-year term by People's Great Hural. There was no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts. Mongolia did not accept International Court of Justice jurisdiction. Supreme Court members were elected by People's Great Hural for four-year term. Lower court judges were elected by local assemblies for three-year terms. The People's Great Hural appointed the Procurator, who appointed lower-level procurators, exercised "supreme supervision over the precise observance of laws by all ministries and other central agencies of administrations, institutions and organizations." . The Procurator and the Supreme Court were accountable to the People's Great Hural and its presidium. The Procurator was appointed by the People's Great Hural for a term of four years. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The Supreme Court was described in the Constitution as "the highest judicial authority" that directs "all...judicial agencies and also establishes supervision over their judicial activity." It was elected for a four-year term by the People's Great Hural, and it presided over the lower structure made up of eighteen aymag courts and local somon courts. Members of the local court structure were elected locally, and the judges for these courts served three-year terms. The chairman of the Supreme Court, had a first deputy and two other deputies, including the chairmen of the criminal affairs and the military affairs collegia. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The law and the legal system were described officially as being solidly grounded in the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The purpose was to ensure that the socioeconomic order produced and shaped a distinctive political, economic, and legal superstructure. Within this context, the principal function of law was to regulate the economy and to contribute to the building of socialism. As of 1989, there still was a limited role for custom in the area of socialist law, but only those considered compatible with prevailing legal norms persisted. There also was a new emphasis on equal rights for women. For the most part, the law functioned as a body of prescriptive regulations that guided social relationships and interpreted the duties of citizens in ways that the party found to be in the best interests of society and development. In general, regulations and codes controlled more areas of life than ever before.*

Two separate legal codes form the basis of Mongolian law--the Civil Code and the Criminal Code. The Civil Code, which went into effect in April 1963, was modeled closely on the code adopted by the Soviet Union in 1963. This code regulates personal relations more carefully than had been the case before its enactment. It extends certain rights, including protecting the honor and the dignity of citizens. The code enlarges the discussion of obligations to include contracts of delivery and carriage-- matters essential to efficient business operations. There also are law codes that apply to the family and to the workplace.*

Formal training in law was given under the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Mongolian State University. Beginning in 1980, 100 full-time students per year were enrolled at this institution. Although the Constitution contains no channel of appeal, the law does provide for appeals of all verdicts except those of the Supreme Court. *

Criminal Code in Mongolia in the Soviet Era

According to the 1961 Criminal Code, a crime was a socially dangerous act or failure to act. Insignificant acts that did not present a "social danger" were not considered crimes, even though they may have violated the letter of the law. Crimes committed against the state and socialist ownership were considered more serious than crimes against private persons. Crimes against the state included treason, espionage, terrorism, sabotage, and smuggling. Crimes against socialist ownership included theft, misappropriation, or embezzlement of state property; and intentional or negligent destruction of state property. Other crimes listed in the criminal code included murder; deliberate crippling; mayhem; impairing the health of others; rape; theft; banditry; vagrancy; destruction of state, communal, or individual property; slander; insult; misuse of guardianship; false imprisonment; forgery; hindering people in voting; illegal search of homes; violation of the privacy of correspondence, of labor laws, or of the separation of church and state, or church and school; and interference with religious freedom. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Generally, any crimes committed by military personnel and active-duty reservists were treated as military crimes. Specific military crimes included insubordination, desertion, unwarranted absence or abandonment of a duty station, evading military service through self-mutilation, violations of guard-duty rules, and mistreatment of prisoners of war.*

Close attention was given to equal rights for women. According to the 1961 Criminal Code, it was a crime to force a woman to marry or to prevent her marriage, to violate the equal rights of women (for example, by preventing them from studying in a school or working in a state agency or in industry), and to refuse jobs to pregnant women or to mothers.*

People sixteen and older were considered legal adults. Those between the ages of fourteen and sixteen were treated as juveniles, except in the most serious cases. Courts were encouraged to apply "compulsory measures of education" rather than criminal penalties to people younger than eighteen who had committed crimes, unless doing so would risk a serious danger to society.*

According to the criminal code, punishment was intended to reeducate and correct the offender's behavior rather than to inflict bodily harm or humiliation. If court sentences were reversed, the official responsible for wrongly imposing punishment was liable to criminal court or disciplinary action.*

Criminal Punishments in Mongolia in the Soviet Era

Punishments consisted of confinement in prisons or correctional labor colonies, assignment of correctional tasks without deprivation of freedom, deportation from the country, prohibition from holding public executive or managerial jobs, fines, public reprimands, confiscation of private property, expulsion from one's native aymag, and loss of the right to hold public office. For treason, espionage, public subversion (which covers a variety of antistate crimes), murder, and armed banditry, the death penalty could be imposed. Women were exempt from the death penalty, as were men younger than eighteen or older than sixty. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Prison sentences generally were limited to terms of six months to ten years, but repeated criminal acts could be punished by prison terms as long as fifteen years. Minor theft and embezzlement usually were punished by imprisonment of up to one year, plus eighteen months of correctional tasks to be served at the convicted person's place of work or residence; repeat offenders could receive sentences of one to five years in prison.*

Stricter punishments could be imposed on those who misappropriated, plundered, or stole state and public property. They could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, and repeat offenders could be sentenced to six to fifteen years, in some cases accompanied by full or partial confiscation of property. Stealing private property could be punished by terms of up to five years in jail or by eighteen months of correctional tasks without deprivation of freedom; repeat offenders could receive five to ten years in prison. Robbery with the use or threat of force could be punished by imprisonment for ten years, and repeat offenders could be imprisoned eight to fifteen years. Malicious embezzlement and squandering of state property were punishable by death by a firing squad and confiscation of private property. A sentence of death, ten to fifteen years in prison, or property confiscation was meted out to persons using force in robbery or banditry; misappropriating funds and property, or dissipating them by illegal consumption; abusing their official positions; swindling; extorting; or showing carelessness or negligence in the discharge of official duties. Terms spent in jail awaiting trial counted toward completion of the sentence, and probation was permissible after one to five years in prison had been served. There were statutes of limitation for most crimes, and pardons occasionally were granted. Penalties against violators of public order consisted of warnings, public rebukes, fines, imprisonment, and compulsory labor for five to thirty days.*

Court System in Soviet-Era Mongolia

The Constitution charges the courts with administering justice in accordance with the laws of the state; with upholding the Constitution; with protecting the rights and interests of the state; with protecting state, public, and cooperative property; and with safeguarding the personal, political, and property rights of the citizens. Courts try cases of treason; sabotage; embezzlement of state, cooperative, and public property; theft; robbery; swindling; and other crimes based on the criminal code. They also try cases involving losses inflicted on private citizens, on the state, and on cooperative and public enterprises and organizations according to the civil code. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Courts punish persons convicted of crimes, but they also serve as educative and political agencies. They correct, reeducate, and reform criminals. They are called on to train citizens in the spirit of "dedication to the fatherland" and in the cause of "socialist democracy"; to uphold the strict and undeviating observance of the law; to train citizens in the careful treatment of state, cooperative, and other public property; and to support the observation of labor discipline, the honoring of state and public duty, and respect for the rules of communal life. The courts are expected to promote popular attitudes of loyalty, patriotism, peaceful behavior, and enthusiasm for socialism; to uphold conformity with the laws and respect for public property and labor discipline; and to involve citizens in state and civic affairs.*

The court system consists of the Supreme Court, aymag courts, city courts, and special courts. Except in special cases for which provisions are made by law, all cases in all courts are tried by permanent judges in the presence of assessors, who are elected representatives sitting on the bench with the judges. The assessors hear the evidence, may question witnesses and the accused, examine the case as presented by the procurator, and participate in findings and sentences. When a question of law or its interpretation arises, however, the judge's opinion rules. An assessor may serve for no more than twenty days per year, unless the nature of a case or crime requires the period to be extended. Citizens twenty-three years or older who have never been convicted by a court are eligible for election as judges and assessors.*

In 1989 there were about 100 circuit courts throughout the country--5 to 7 in each aymag. Circuit courts serve about 340 counties, or somons, and towns. Each circuit court has jurisdiction over several somons in dealing with citizen complaints and with criminal and civil cases. Judges and jurors are elected for three-year terms--the judges by the regular session of the aymag assemblies, the jurors by direct elections. The courts promote knowledge of the laws, and they work for crime prevention.*

Each aymag and city court consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors. Judges and assessors are elected for two-year terms by the local assemblies of people's deputies. These courts can try all criminal cases except those that fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the special courts, and the state arbitration organs. These courts also engage in crime prevention propaganda and the popularization of the law. They report on their own work to aymag and municipal assemblies.*

Supreme Court and Special Courts in Soviet-Era Mongolia

According to the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest judicial body. It is elected by the People's Great Hural for a term of four years, and it is responsible and accountable to the People's Great Hural and its presidium (Article 66 of the Constitution as amended). It consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors, as may be determined by the People's Great Hural. The Plenum of the Supreme Court consists of the chairman, the deputy chairman, and all members meeting together in a general session. The Presidium of the Supreme Court consists of a committee of selected members. There is a judicial chamber in charge of criminal cases, another in charge of civil cases, and a third in charge of overseeing the work of all the judicial organs of the state. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The Supreme Court directs, inspects, and reviews the work of all the lower courts. It supervises all judicial work in the state, and it formulates national legal policies. The court holds a general session at least once a month, that is attended by the procurator or the procurator's deputy. Decisions at general sessions are adopted by voice majority of the membership. Such sessions may change previous interpretations of the laws, but not the Constitution. Only the Presidium of the People's Great Hural has the right to examine and change decisions reached in the Supreme Court's general sessions or in court cases. The Presidium of the Supreme Court reviews the work of all lower courts and investigates the general causes of crime in the country. The Supreme Court also may take jurisdiction over certain cases, presumably those posing serious difficulties, problems of legal procedure or jurisprudence, or serious dangers to the state that ordinarily would be tried by military or by railroad courts.*

There also are special military and railroad transport courts. Each is staffed by a chairman, a deputy chairman, members, and assessors; all are elected by the People's Great Hural to three-year terms. Military courts try cases involving military personnel, fire fighters, and militia members. Railroad courts try cases connected with the operation of railroad lines and with criminal and civil offenses committed by railroad workers. A trial is carried out under the chairmanship of one judge, assisted by two assessors.*

Procuratorial System in Soviet-Era Mongolia

The Constitution establishes the Office of the Procurator of the Republic. It vests the position with supreme supervisory power over the strict observance of the laws by all ministries and other central administrative bodies, and by the institutions and organizations subordinate to them; by local bodies; by all public and cooperative organizations; by all officials; and by all citizens. The procurator is appointed by the People's Great Hural to a four-year term and is responsible and accountable to the People's Great Hural and its presidium. The procurator appoints aymag, somon, and municipal procurators for three-year terms. These local procurators are subordinate only to the procurator of higher rank. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Thus the procuratorial system parallels that of the courts, and its chain of command extends unbroken from top to bottom. The Office of the Procurator serves as a check on the entire court system, as well as on the government apparatus. As such it wields enormous power and is a strong arm of the party for enforcing its national policies.*

The procurator is authorized to review the activities of the Ministry of State Security and its field organizations, all organizations of inquiry, all militia units, and all judicial organizations. The procurator's staff reviews all cases, takes account of sentences, and checks on the legality of detentions and on prison conditions. It supports public prosecution work in each locality, issues arrest warrants and confirms indictments, protests against laws it considers illegal or unconstitutional, checks the legality of resolutions, ensures that state orders and regulations are properly issued, and supervises all public prosecutors and the investigative apparatus.*

The deputy procurator is appointed by the procurator for a three-year term, subject to confirmation by the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. The incumbent is charged with reviewing the investigative organs of the Ministry of State Security and the militia; with checking prison conditions and the legality of detentions; with reviewing legal judgments, rulings, and decisions of regular and special courts; and with participating in Supreme Court preparatory and judicial sessions as the procurator's representative.*

The assistant procurator is appointed by the procurator and confirmed by the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. The assistant procurator supervises the coroners, the Office of the Military Procurator, and the border guards; is responsible for prompt action on all statements and complaints from state and public institutions and private citizens; and supervises the legal personnel on the procurator's staff and legal training in the country.*

Court Proceedings in Soviet-Era Mongolia

At the local level, aymag and municipal procurators issue arrest warrants, direct coroners and militia organs in crime investigations, and review the investigative activity of the organs under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Coroners, under direction of the procurators, are required to make prompt inquiry into all criminal cases. They appear in court in criminal cases as expert witnesses and in civil cases as defenders for workers and the state. They may be members of the medical bureaus that are attached to all courts in order to examine victims injured in crimes, to perform autopsies, and to conduct scientific investigations. Bailiffs at each level are appointed by the court chairman. They see that the decisions and sentences imposed by the courts are carried out.*

All persons charged with a violation can be handed over, together with the evidence against them, to the courts of local assemblies by official and public organizations, local authorities, procurators, militia members, or citizens. An accused person has the right to be tried within one month of arrest or is automatically absolved.*

Court proceedings are conducted in Mongol, but a person not speaking the language has the right both to an interpreter and to use his or her own language in court. Accused people are guaranteed the right to defend themselves. All cases are heard in public, except for special cases in which the law provides for closed courts.*

Verdicts, decrees, and decisions of all courts except the Supreme Court may be appealed by the defense or by the prosecution. Decisions and sentences legally in force can be protested only by the chairman of the Supreme Court, by the state procurator, or by the minister of state security. *

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016


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