Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan
Council of Europe
Venice Commission of the Council of Europe
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
OSCE Programme Office in Astana
German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Britain, France, Germany,
STATEMENT OF THE
REPUBLICAN COLLEGIUM OF ADVOCATES
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Bar Association of the Republic of Kazakhstan expresses its utmost respect to you and, using this opportunity, considers it necessary to express its concern on the following issue.
For many years, since Kazakhstan`s gaining independence, a number of international organizations supported by the governments of democratic states, implement projects related to the improvement of the justice system in the Republic of Kazakhstan and to better respect for human rights.
We are very grateful for such work and, given that human rights are the highest value in the rule-of-law and in a democratic state at all times, we strove and are striving to render all possible assistance to such efforts. The right to a fair and impartial trial, freedom from torture and abusive treatment, and the right to qualified advocates’ legal aid are cornerstones not only of international law but are also moral principles for every free society.
The Bar Association of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as an institution entrusted with the implementation of constitutional guarantees to qualified legal assistance, is endeavoring to take an active part in the discussions of draft laws in the field of judicial reform. At the same time, we always support the need to improve legislation in the mode of realization in our country of the principles of the rule of law, protection of human rights and freedoms, and ensuring the judicial independence and fairness of justice.
Naturally, in the course of the heated discussions that arise in this regard, advocates often express to the authorities a fair criticism in relation to human rights violations and deviations from international standards for a fair trial set forth by the international treaties ratified by our country.
We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the international and Kazakh public to the fact that the reform proclaimed by President N. Nazarbayev aimed at the implementation of the «100 Steps Plan of Nation» in respect of securing the supremacy of law, to our deep regret, has degenerated into a formal change of a mere decorative character. Criminal trials continue to be unduly harsh and repressive; the presumption of innocence in practice remains an empty declaration and judges continue to be dependent on the government authorities. Obviously, the poor situation with torture, especially in places of detention, leaves much to be desired.
Advocates acting in the interests of civil society constantly complain about it from different angles thereby realizing their right to freedom of expression guaranteed in a democratic state. However, we remain unheard in spite of common sense and the law.
In recent years, we have become seriously worried about the practice of discrimination of advocates at conducting international conferences, round tables and other events, including those conducted with the financial support of international organizations, such as the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the European Union, the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation, the OSCE and others. Discrimination, in our view, is practiced in the fact that the event programs, dedicated to the problems of justice reform and respect for human rights, do not have sufficient space for the representatives of the advocates’ community, or the advocates are admitted to participate after all others, when their speeches will not be given due attention.
In determining the format and topics for discussion, the issues of particular importance in terms of protection of human rights are often overlooked: the selection of experts participating in the events and conducting the events is carried out without the account of the advocates’ opinions and sometimes such events occur exclusively in the interests, and for the sake of the law enforcement authorities.
The advocates are not included in the delegations, or included very rarely in exceptional cases on numerous trips on practice exchange conducted on the projects e.g. by the European Union and other organizations.
We must state that the removal of advocates from public events in the course of judicial reform has occurred with the tacit consent of those who are implementing the projects funded by the international organizations and by the embassies of foreign states.
The criticism and free expression of the opinions by advocates in the course of legal discussions counteract the decorative, but false picture in respect of human rights, torture and fair trials, which the law-enforcement agencies are attempting to create at international forums.
The considered and professional opinions of advocates irritate not only our opponents but apparently also the project implementers, who are more concerned with the successful application of funds allocated by the sponsors than with a real attempt to achieve cardinal improvements of the situation with human rights in Kazakhstan.
As an example of this attitude, we can mention the International Conference «Modernization of Procedural Law – Guarantee of the Efficiency of Justice and Law Enforcement Activity» which was conducted on 3rd-4th of March 2016 at «Ak Bulak» ski resort. At this event, the right to speak was given to only one representative of the advocates’ community. At the same time, the program itself was drawn up without taking into account the opinion of the advocates’ community, and the list of invited experts consisted of persons loyal to the General Prosecutor’s Office. Equitable justice is impossible without equality of prosecution and defense. This equality implies the same respect for the prosecution authorities as well as for the defense, whose core is voiced by advocates.
By virtue of our professional duty and our own moral standards, we continue to support the protection of human rights and to insist on justice for everyone. We will continue to struggle for these values regardless of the degree of the treatment given to us by the authorities and international organizations. Nonetheless, we appeal to the representatives of those states, who are accountable to their citizens who pay for these projects, to show greater adherence to principles in determining their direction, content and results.
We hope that the practice of double standards in relation to the advocates will discontinue and this will serve as a basis for our further open, honest and effective collaboration.
The Chairman of the Presidium of the
Republican collegium of advocates