Legal and Judicial Reforms

Kazakhstan considers effective legal and judicial reforms a key element in strengthening human rights. At present Kazakhstan is a signatory to more than 60 universal and multilateral treaties on human rights, including seven UN human rights conventions, and Kazakhstan is taking all necessary steps to integrate into its own legislation measures contained in these international human rights agreements, making human rights a matter of law.

Legal and judicial reform is an ongoing process in Kazakhstan. Observers should recognize that the complexity of this process derives from the need to uproot many of the deeply-seated concepts and practices inherited from Soviet days. But the Government and people of Kazakhstan are committed to bringing their laws and institutions fully within internationally accepted norms under a comprehensive rule of law.

In recent years, the Government of Kazakhstan has taken many steps to enhance the rule of law and the protection of human rights. These steps include:

  1. Established the office of Human Rights Ombudsman

    In accordance with its international commitments, Kazakhstan established the office of Human Rights Ombudsman in 2002. To elevate the standing of this office, the Government is working to have it run according to the Paris Principles, starting in 2011. The Paris Principles establish general criteria for the independent operation of human rights institutions.

  2. Placed the penitentiary system under the Ministry of Justice

    In 2002 responsibility for Kazakhstan’s penitentiary system was transferred from the Ministry of Interior, which in Kazakhstan deals with criminal and internal threats to the country, such as narcotics trafficking and terrorism (like the FBI in America), to the Ministry of Justice, which deals with civilian law issues.

  3. Assigned jurisdiction over some lesser violations to appropriate ministries

    The authority of the Interior Ministry over certain less serious illegal activities was transferred to ministries with a mandate more closely aligned with those activities: medical detoxification centers were transferred to the Ministry of Health; administrative detention was transferred to the Ministry of Justice; and juvenile rehabilitation centers were transferred to the Ministry of Education and Science.

    The General Prosecutor’s Office, in collaboration with concerned government bodies, has developed a draft law «On Introducing Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of Kazakhstan for the Further Humanization of Criminal Legislation, and Strengthening Legal Safeguards in the Criminal Process». These amendments would allow the decriminalization of 36 categories of crime which do not pose a major threat to society, including economic crimes.

  4. Abolished the death penalty for all but terrorist crimes

    The Constitutional reform of May 2007 changed the Criminal Code by dramatically reducing the types of crimes punishable by death. Following the reform, only terrorist acts that cause loss of human life and crimes committed during wartime are punishable by death. And those sentenced to death have the right to seek a pardon. Even before this reform was enacted, Kazakhstan adopted a moratorium on the death penalty. The moratorium was maintained from December 2003 through July 2009, when the death penalty was finally abolished.

  5. Introduced trial by jury

    In order to conform to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Kazakhstan in 2005, trial by jury was introduced on January 1, 2008. Initially, jury trials were used only for a narrow range of serious criminal cases, but as of January 1, 2010, these trials have been used for all serious crimes.

  6. Strengthened the constitutional rights of citizens

    As of September 1, 2008, citizens’ rights have been strengthened by enactment of a law which stipulates that any arrest in Kazakhstan has to be authorized by a court.

  7. Adopted the National Action Plan for Human Rights: 2009-2012

    In order to strengthen the legal mechanisms designed to protect human rights, a number of measures have been, and are being, taken as part of the National Action Plan for Human Rights for 2009-2012. This National Plan is the first comprehensive document produced in Kazakhstan (or any nation in Central Asia) which outlines the main principles of domestic and foreign policy in the sphere of human rights.

    The National Plan includes specific proposals to strengthen the rule of law as it applies to protecting human rights in Kazakhstan. The Plan was formulated by Government of Kazakhstan agencies, international and Kazakh non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNDP, and the OSCE Center in Astana. It was approved by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

    NGO members are included in Kazakhstan’s Commission on Human Rights and its Council of Experts.

  8. Approved the Concept of Legal Policy for 2010-2020

    This strategic policy document was approved on August 24, 2009. It sets out the agenda for development of national legislation over the coming decade. The document outlines the direction of further improvement: for all areas of national legislation; for the judicial system; for law enforcement; and for related state and public institutions. The Concept is the basis for shaping a new generation of Kazakhstan legislation designed to provide full protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens as well as the interests of society and the state. It will also serve as the legal framework for further modernization of the nation.

  9. Codified adoption of international treaties

    To ensure active implementation of ratified international norms in court practice, on July 10, 2008 the Supreme Court adopted a regulatory resolution titled: “On application of International Treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan». The Supreme Court ordered all judges to be guided by the provisions of international treaties to which Kazakhstan is a signatory, instructing them to treat such provisions as integral to Kazakhstan legislation.

  10. Established criminal liability for torture and abuse of power

    In order to correctly and uniformly apply provisions of the Constitution and laws in the field of criminal justice on behalf of personal freedom and the inviolability of human dignity, as well as the proper performance of Kazakhstan’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, the Supreme Court in December 2009 adopted a resolution, with the strength of law, that delineates a legal basis for criminal liability in cases of torture and abuse of official powers. This ruling governs all procedural mechanisms for prosecutors and courts regarding complaints of torture coming from detained or arrested individuals. The ruling establishes regulations for the evaluation of evidence and the classification of crimes, as well as for the ascertainment of criminal liability for those who torture and those who aid and abet torture, either by inciting it or acquiescing to it. The ruling also stipulates appropriate compensation for material and personal damages suffered by the victims of torture.

  11. Strengthening protections against torture

    Recognizing the need for further measures to satisfy the objectives of the UN Convention Against Torture, and to strengthen the protection of detainees from torture, the Government of Kazakhstan, within the framework of its obligations under the Optional Protocol, is drafting a bill to establish a national code for protection against torture. This draft law is currently being debated as an amendment to Article 347-1 of the Criminal Code, making the Kazakhstan code consistent with Article 1 of the UN Convention.

  12. Enacted a law to protect refugees

    Within the framework of implementation of the principle of non-refoulement of refugees enshrined in Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, Kazakhstan’s Law on Refugees went into effect on December 4, 2009.According to Article 18 of the Kazakhstan law, refugees and asylum seekers cannot be forced to return to their countries if their life or liberty will be threatened upon their return because of their race, religion, nationality or citizenship, or because they have an affiliation with a particular group or political ideology.

  13. Modernized the judicial system

    On December 10, 2009, Kazakhstan, in the framework of the Concept of Legal Policy for 2010-2020, adopted the “Law on Amending the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Kazakhstan with Regard to Improvement of the Judicial System». This law aims to modernize the judicial system by improving its individual elements, including further implementation of the adversarial principle, granting better access to justice, and instituting a three-tiered court system.

  14. Issued a Presidential Decree on modernizing the judicial system

    A Presidential Decree was issued on August 17, 2010, «On Measures to Improve Law Enforcement and the Judicial System in Kazakhstan». This marked a new impetus to improve the judicial system, and relevant draft laws will be submitted to the Majilis by the end of 2010.

  15. Passed a law to combat domestic violence

    Kazakhstan has paid particular attention to combating domestic violence. In December 2009 a law was adopted which aims at preventing crimes and delinquencies in family relations. The law also sets forth the responsibilities of state bodies in combating domestic violence and in determining the rights and obligations of persons under administrative supervision, including the penalties for violating the rules of such supervision.

  16. Expanded the scope of non-custodial sentences

    The scope of non-custodial sentences is expanding and includes fines, community service and restrictions on freedom of movement.

  17. Introduced conciliation in criminal cases

    Conciliation has been introduced as an option for appropriate criminal cases, and a Mediation Institute has been established.