Kazakhstan: IBAHRI condemns disbarment of two lawyers
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the decision of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan on 26 February 2020 to disbar two lawyers – Amanzhol Mukhamedyarov, the Chair of the Lawyers’ Rights Committee, and Erlan Gazumzhanov, a lawyer from Nur-Sultan – from practising law.
After posting an archive video on a social network of a court hearing session from 29 April 2019, the lawyers were accused of violating the Supreme Court rule prohibiting online publication of trial recordings. The video revealed a judge making inappropriate comments about the two lawyers specifically, and the legal profession in general. Following the posting of the video, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan initiated disbarment proceedings.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The disbarment of Amanzhol Mukhamedyarov and Erlan Gazumzhanov is a disproportionate sanction and can be rightly viewed as a method of intimidation. The IBAHRI strongly condemns this action and urges the Kazakhstani authorities to overturn the decision. We must not allow lawyers’ concerns to be silenced in this way. The ban on filming and online publication of courtroom proceedings in Kazakhstan was aimed at preventing distraction and interruption of proceedings. It was not intended as a cover for seriously improper conduct and comments that should be known and seen by those whom the law protects: the citizens and litigants of the country.’
The IBAHRI is disturbed that this case breaches the fundamental rights of Mr Mukhamedyarov and Mr Gazumzhanov as lawyers, raising issues of improper interference and limits to freedom of expression. The lawyers’ disbarment may also be regarded as a threat to the independence of the legal profession in Kazakhstan.
In accordance with Article 16(a) of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments must ensure that lawyers ‘are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference’. Article 23 of the Basic Principles stipulates that lawyers are ‘entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly’. Kazakhstan is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states in Article 14(1) that ‘everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law’.
Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, IBAHRI Co-Chair, commented: ‘Disbarring Mr Mukhamedyarov and Mr Gazumzhanov for arbitrary reasons violates their fundamental rights as lawyers, particularly their entitlement to practise without fear of intimidation or improper interference. Kazakhstan should uphold its commitment to respect and safeguard the independence of the legal profession by immediately reinstating the lawyers’ licences.’
Notes to the Editor
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- The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The present membership is comprised of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world’s leading law firms and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.
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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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