Kazakhstan: frivolous disbarment proceedings against prominent lawyer Sergey Sizintsev should be immediately dropped, ICJ says

Today, the ICJ expressed concern at the initiation of disbarment proceedings by the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan against Sergey Sizintsev, former Executive Director of the National Bar Association and the newly-elected head of the Scientific-Consultative Board of the National Bar Association. 

The official ground for disbarment of Sizintsev is his work as the Director the National Bar Association in 2016-2018 while continuing his legal practice at the same time.

On his facebook public account, however, Sizintsev alleged that this initiative is not related to the officially stated grounds, and that in fact continuing to practice while working as Director of the Bar Association is clearly permitted by the Kazakhstan’s law. Rather, he alleges, he is being pursued for his criticism of the law “On lawyers’ activity and legal aid” as well as his public statements in different international and national fora in regard to issues related to the independence of the legal profession.

The ICJ recalls that freedom of expression and association, in particular, constitute essential requirements for the proper and independent functioning of the legal profession and must be guaranteed by law and in practice.

According to Principle 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers “[…] have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.”

Sergey Sizintsev as Executive Director of the National Bar Association and as a member of the Parliament working group on the Law on Lawyers’ Activities, was expected to voice concerns of members of the legal position including on the new law which the legal profession consider to be restrictive.

Moreover, his position demanded that he expresses his position on behalf of the National Bar Association including to draw attention to legislative developments which can jeopardise the independence of the legal profession in Kazakhstan.

The ICJ is concerned that this initiative appears to constitute an attack on the independence of lawyers in Kazakhstan and may have a chilling effect on members of the legal profession.

The ICJ therefore calls on the Ministry of Justice to end this lawsuit immediately.

The ICJ will closely follow the case of Sergei Sizintsev and the proceedings at the Rayon Court in Petropavlovsk.

In December 2017, the ICJ organized a mission to Kazakhstan and raised concerns over the then planned reform.

In November 2018, the ICJ raised concern at the disbarment proceedings against Presidents of Aktybinsk and Pavlodar Bar Association as well as resignation of Anuar Tugel, the President of the National Bar Association of Kazakhstan, allegedly as a result of the pressure from the Ministry of Justice.

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