Kazakhstan’s reforms aimed at improving legal assistance for citizens

Published 16 March 2021

Kazakhstan's legal system is under constant modernisation to adapt to the requirements and needs of its citizens. A person, his life, rights, and freedoms are undoubtedly the main values of our country. As an important institution of civil society, the protection of human rights and freedoms belongs not only to the institutions of the state power but also to the bar. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring human rights by providing citizens with legal assistance and professional protection.

To ensure qualified legal assistance, a new version of the Law “On Advocacy and Legal Assistance” was adopted in 2018. Its norms correspond to the best international practices and standards. The implementation of this Law ensured crucial step-by-step reform, guaranteeing affordable and high-quality legal assistance to the people.

For example, legal consultants that form part of self-regulating chambers are obliged to develop their skills and provide legal assistance in accordance with the established rules and standards of a professional organisation. Furthermore, the entry fee for applicants to the bar, which previously amounted to $2,000, has been excluded. By eliminating entry fees, the defence corps has increased by more than 700 new lawyers to approximately 5,500 lawyers.

In addition, there are new established fundamental principles of legal aid: the independence of individuals providing legal assistance, as well as mandatory annual training of lawyers to ensure their competitiveness in the market.

The powers of the authorised body to coordinate the activities of people providing state-guaranteed legal assistance and control over its quality are fixed since such assistance is carried out from the state budget.

The number of citizens receiving state-guaranteed legal assistance is increasing every year. In 2019 and 2020, such assistance was provided to more than 280,000 citizens. Every year the country spends more than 1.8 billion tenge ($4,288,662) on free legal assistance. Additionally, free social legal assistance is offered by lawyers on a voluntary basis to people who are economically vulnerable. If below-par legal assistance is provided, citizens have the right to compensation. For this purpose, insurance for the activities of lawyers and legal consultants has been initiated.

Ultimately, the legislative amendments adopted in recent years have enabled substantial reforms that protect human rights, including raising the status of lawyers and providing sufficient guarantees to ensure their powers in practice.

The Ministry of Justice will continue to further improve Kazakhstan’s legislation on advocacy and legal assistance to strengthen the legal status of an individual and the rights, freedoms, and legitimate interests of citizens.

The Author

Galiya Deme is an expert at the Department of registration and legal services of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan