Kazakhstan: the reform of the legal profession should aim to strengthen its independence, ICJ says

The ICJ, following a mission to Kazakhstan this week to assess the proposed draft law reforming the regulation of the legal profession, called for the postponement of the adoption of the law and more active participation of the legal profession in its development.

The ICJ stressed that any reform of the legal profession should strengthen the independence of lawyers to ensure that it is fully in line with international law and standards on the role of lawyers.

The independence of the legal profession is vital for lawyers to protect the human rights of their clients, including the right to a fair trial and access to justice.

The ICJ is concerned that the Draft Law changes the disciplinary system for lawyers from an independent procedure to one under significant influence of the executive.

In particular, the Draft Law provides for participation of representatives of the executive in disciplinary bodies.

The ICJ recalls that an independent disciplinary procedure is one of the pillars of an independent legal profession and should be guaranteed by law and in practice.

In line with the principle of an independent legal profession, the ICJ also believes that the provision in the Draft Law allowing for the creation of a “State Advokartura” should be removed.

One of the weaknesses of the current administration of the legal profession in Kazakhstan is that the qualification process for lawyers is not independent of the executive.

The ICJ stresses that the reform creates an opportunity to make the qualification procedure for lawyers fully independent, and administered by the Bar Association.

This would bring the current legislation in line with best international practices and with the principle of the independence of the legal profession.

The ICJ has noted that the Bar Association has not been sufficiently involved in the discussion of the reform of the profession. As a professional association of lawyers, the Bar Association should play a significant role the development of the legislation regulating its functioning and should ideally lead the discussion on the reform.

The ICJ believes that the adoption of the law should not be rushed and further discussion among all interested parties should take place before the Draft Law progresses further.

Reforms along the lines set out above would be consistent with Kazakhstan’s international obligations and commitments under, for instance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.


On 4 and 5 December, the ICJ carried out a visit to Astana where a number of high-level meetings were held. The visit was prompted by the reform of the legal profession and the related draft law which has been submitted to the Parliament.

The ICJ is grateful to its delegates from different jurisdictions who agreed to join the ICJ mission:

Mr. Otmar Kury, President of the Hamburg Bar Association, Chairman of the Commission on Federal Lawyers Act of the German Federal Bar

Jeroen Browder, President of the Ethics Commission of the Bar Association of the Netherlands and former President of the Bar Association of the Netherlands

Georg Stawa, President of the European Commission for the Effectiveness of Justice (CEPEJ)

Christina Blacklaws, Vice President of the Law Society of England and Wales

Chika Muorah, International Policy Adviser of the Law Society of England and Wales

The ICJ expresses its gratitude to all who kindly agreed to meet with it. In particular, the Mission thanks the Minister of Justice of Kazakhstan, the Supreme Court, members of the Parliament, the President of the Republican Bar Association, the “Kazbar” NGO and all others who it met with.

Kazakhstan-News-Web stories-Independence of the judiciary-2017-ENG (full report, in English)

Kazakhstan-MissionLawyers-News-pressreleases-2017-RUS (full story in Russian, PDF)

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