Reforms in the Judicial System of Kazakhstan

After the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakh­stan on 28 January 1993, new social and political relations emerged in the country. Moreover, Kazakhstan declared that its aim was to build a lawful state. Achieving this required radical legal reforms which would better meet the socio-political, socioeconomic and international status of the new state. The president’s Resolution On the State Programme of Legal Re­forms in the Republic of Kazakhstan of 12 February 1994 became a historical document that defined the priority aspects for reforms in the judicial and legal system: just and independent courts; highly-quali­fied, impartial judges appointed on a permanent basis; improvements in the living standards ofjudges — these are the foundations of impar­tial judiciary and it is precisely a decent life for a judge that stresses the importance and immeasurable responsibility of their work and provides social security for them. Therefore, improving their living conditions was made a priority.

This resolution clearly regulated the structure of the country’s judicial bodies, the powers of judges and personnel issues. The structure and composition ofjudicial bodies were also defined at that point. It was decided that the Supreme Court would rule on all economic issues and issues relating to the carriage of justice and the provision ofjudges with everything they needed for this was del­egated to the head of the apparatus. The composition of regional and town courts has been the same since that time, while the powers and objectives of martial courts in Kazakhstan enabled them to become members of the plenum of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The institution of people’s assessors was abolished.

The president’s next step in reforming the judicial system was the 1995 Decree On Courts and the Status of Judges in the Republic of Kazakhstan, which had the force of constitutional law. The decree fixed the defining status of the judiciary’s independence, making it one of the equal branches of government.

The main government bodies of Kazakhstan responsible for leg­islative and legal issues are the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Council, the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan. «Judicial power shall be exercised on behalf of the Republic of Kazakhstan and shall be intended to protect the rights, freedoms, and legal interests of citizens and organisations and ensure the observance of the constitution, laws, other legislative acts and international agree­ments of the republic.» [12, Article 76] The highest judicial body in the country is the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the members of which are appointed by the Senate following the president’s nominations which in turn are based on recommendations by the country’s Highest Judicial Council. The Supreme Court has powers to supervise and overturn rulings of lower courts. In addition, it is the body that gives explanations on issues of judicial practice and the application of legislative acts. The Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan issues rulings on all issues relating to the observance of constitutional norms and procedures adopted. The Constitutional Council considers the president’s protests and if they are not overcome by a majority of the vote decisions by the Constitutional Council are regarded as void.

The Constitutional Council rules on the legitimacy of presidential and parliamentary elections and examines laws to establish their conformity with the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Constitutional Council has seven members, three of whom, in­cluding the chairman, are appointed by the president. Four members represent the chambers of parliament: two members are appointed by the Speaker of the Senate and the other two by the Speaker of the Mazhilis. All former presidents receive lifetime membership of the Constitutional Council. The chairman of the Constitutional Council is appointed by the president, and when votes are divided equally the chairman’s vote is critical. The organisation and work of the Constitutional Council is regu­lated by a constitutional law.

The Constitutional Council’s rulings come into force from the day of their adoption and are obligatory throughout Kazakhstan. They are final and cannot be appealed against. The government body that monitors the observance of law is the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The Prosecutor-General’s Office reports to the president. It exer­cises supreme control over the exact and uniform application of laws, presidential decrees and other legislative acts in the country and moni­tors the legality of search, questioning, investigation, administrative and penal procedures.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office takes measures to establish and eliminate any violations of law, protest laws and other legislative acts contradicting the constitutions and laws, represent state interests in court and conduct criminal prosecution. The state prosecution represents a single centralised system of bodies and establishments with prosecutors at a lower level being sub­ordinate to prosecutors at a higher level and the prosecutor-general. The Prosecutor-General’s Office carries out its duties indepen­dently of other government bodies and officials, political parties and other public associations. Involvement in the activities of the prosecutor’s offices is banned.

Acts issued by the Prosecutor-General’s Office are obligatory for all bodies, organisations, officials and citizens. With the aim of ensuring the supremacy of the constitution and laws and protecting human rights and liberties of citizens, while exercis­ing supreme control over the exact and uniform application of laws, presidential decrees and other legislative acts, on behalf of the state prosecutor’s offices: detect and take measures to eliminate violations of the constitution, legislative acts and acts by the president; exercise control over the legality of search, questioning, investigation, adminis­trative and penal procedures; and represent state interests in court.

In addition, the Prosecutor-General’s Office appeals against laws and other legislative acts contradicting the constitution and laws of Kazakhstan; has the right to conduct criminal prosecution in the order and within the powers set by law. Prosecutor’s offices compose state legal statistics to ensure the uniformity, objectivity and sufficiency of statistical indicators, carry out special records, and monitor the application of laws in the sphere of legal statistics and special records.

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