April 13, 2016

Roundtable Addresses Ongoing Institutional Reform Efforts in the Judiciary

On February 8, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) Country Director in Kazakhstan Sholpan Tashmukhambetova spoke at a roundtable discussion on judicial system development. Organized by the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan and the Central Communications Service as part of the country’s “100 Concrete Steps” initiative, the Astana event was attended by 15 legal professionals.

Participants included representatives from the Supreme Court, the High Judicial Council, the Kazakhstan Bar association, the Institute of justice, the Union of judges, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, a legal magazine and graduate students from the Kazakh Law University.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev launched the 100 Concrete Steps program in spring 2015 as a roadmap for institutional reform to further modernize Kazakhstan and make the country among the top 30 most developed countries by 2050. The plan incorporates wide-ranging reform efforts, from creating more effective public service to increasing government transparency to improving healthcare and education standards.

Nineteen of the 100 Concrete Steps are devoted to rule of law reform. ABA ROLI is working to leverage its positive relationships with local legal stakeholders, especially those in the judicial sector, to effect meaningful change. Through its U.S. Agency for International Development-funded judicial reform program, ABA ROLI has been collaborating with the Kazakhstani judiciary since April 2012 to strengthen judges’ knowledge and application of international best practices in judicial decision writing techniques and substantive law. ABA ROLI has also supported the implementation of new legislation and development of alternative dispute resolution methods. At the roundtable, Tashmukhambetova highlighted the collaboration between ABA ROLI and Kazakhstani judicial actors, including the Supreme Court, the Union of Judges and the Institute of Justice, as well as ongoing joint activities that support the 100 Concrete Steps program. “We have a good balance of international practice and standards, as well as analysis of Kazakhstani legislation and its application,” she said.

In his presentation at the roundtable, Baglan Makulbekov, justice of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan, discussed the development of the country’s judicial system and the progress in implementing reforms outlined in the 100 Concrete Steps program. Kazakhstan has already begun to transition from a five-level court system to a more streamlined three-level system, has introduced stricter qualification requirements and selection process for judicial candidates and has created the International Arbitration Center in cooperation with the Financial Court and the Supreme Court’s International Council, which is tasked with introducing advanced international standards of justice to the country’s legal framework, as well as improving the courts’ implementation of the law and the judiciary’s administrative regulations.

Sansyzbek Rayimbayev, secretary of the Union of Judges, spoke about a new code of ethics for judges that the union is developing, while a representative from the Institute of Justice—the institute that trains judges—explained how the transfer of jurisdiction over the institute from the Academy of Public Administration to the Supreme Court will lead to enhanced professional development opportunities for judges. The transition will usher in unified standards for judicial training and magistracy, as well as a new system to review the rules and procedures for judicial selection.

The roundtable discussion, which offered stakeholders a forum to reflect on ongoing and planned changes in Kazakhstan’s judicial system, was widely covered by local media.

To learn more about our work in Kazakhstan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.