KAZAKHSTAN
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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Legal Profession
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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Constitution of Kazakhstan concentrates power in the presidency. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the dominant political figure. The Constitution permits the President to dominate the legislature and judiciary, as well as regional and local governments; changes or amendments to the Constitution are nearly impossible without the President's consent. President Nazarbayev was elected to a new 7-year term in a 1999 election that fell far short of international standards. A June 2000 law allows the President to maintain certain policy prerogatives and a seat on the National Security Council after he leaves office. The Constitution limits Parliament's powers by precluding it from appropriating state money or lowering taxes without executive branch approval. However, Members of Parliament (M.P.'s) have the right to introduce legislation, and some bills introduced by M.P.'s have become laws.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

There are three levels in the court system: Local, oblast (provincial), and the Supreme Court. Local courts try less serious crimes, such as petty theft and vandalism. Oblast courts handle more serious crimes, such as murder, grand theft, and organized criminal activities. The oblast courts also may handle cases in rural areas where no local courts are organized. Judgments of the local courts may be appealed to the oblast-level courts, while those of the oblast courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court. There is also a military court.

According to the Constitution, the President proposes to the upper house of Parliament (the Senate) nominees for the Supreme Court. Specifically nominees are recommended by The Supreme Judicial Council, which includes the chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the chairperson of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Justice, Senators, judges, and other persons appointed by the President. The President appoints oblast judges (nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council) and local level judges from a list presented by the Ministry of Justice. The list is based on recommendations from the Qualification Collegium of Justice, an institution made up of deputies from the lower house of Parliament (the Majilis), judges, public prosecutors, legal experts, and Ministry of Justice officials. The President appoints the Collegium chairman.

Under the law judges are appointed for life, although in practice this means until mandatory retirement at age 65. Under a 1995 presidential decree, the President may remove judges, except members of the Supreme Court or chairmen of judicial collegia, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice; the Minister's recommendations must be based on findings by either the Supreme Judicial Council or the Qualification Collegium of Justice that the judge failed to, or was no longer capable of, performing his duties. The President can request, based upon recommendations from the Supreme Judicial Council, that the Senate remove members of the Supreme Court or chairmen of judicial collegia, which are judicial councils that judges serve on at the local, city, oblast, and Supreme Court levels.

The Constitution abolished the Constitutional Court and established a Constitutional Council in 1995. The Council rules on election and referendum challenges, interprets the Constitution, and determines the constitutionality of laws adopted by Parliament. The President directly appoints three of its seven members, including the chairman, and has the right of veto over Council decisions. The Council may overturn a presidential veto if at least two-thirds (five) of its members vote to do so. Therefore, at least one presidential appointee must vote to overturn the President's veto in order for the Council to overrule the President. Citizens do not have the right to appeal to the Council regarding the constitutionality of government actions, although they were allowed to make such appeals to the former Constitutional Court. Under the Constitution, only the President, chairperson of the Senate, chairperson of the Majilis, Prime Minister, one-fifth of the members of Parliament, or a court of law may appeal to the Constitutional Council. The Constitution states that a court shall appeal to the Council if it "finds that a law or other regulatory legal act subject to application undermined the rights and liberties of an individual and a citizen."

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Kazakhstani Government's human rights record was poor in 2001; although there were significant improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. The Government severely limits citizens' right to change their government and democratic institutions remained weak. Members of the security forces committed a small number of extrajudicial killings during mistreatment of detainees and abuse of military conscripts. Police tortured detainees in the form of beatings, and otherwise mistreated detainees. In June the head of the Prosecutor General's office admitted to increasing instances of physical abuse of subordinates. Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening; however, the Government took an active role in efforts to improve prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners, and observers have noted significant improvements in prison conditions. The Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention, and prolonged detention was a problem. The judiciary remained under the control of the President and the executive branch, and corruption in the judiciary remained deeply rooted. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights.

There were instances when the Government harassed and monitored independent and opposition media, and as a consequence, many journalists practiced self-censorship. In April the Parliament approved amendments to the media law that expand the liability of media outlets, treat Web sites as media outlets and limit direct rebroadcast of foreign media. The Government imposes some restrictions on freedom of assembly and imposes restrictions on freedom of association. At times the Government harassed those whom it regarded as religious extremists. There were some limits on freedom of movement, although the Government took significant steps to improve this freedom. Some human rights monitors reported that the Government monitored their activities.

Violence against women, including domestic violence was a serious problem. There was discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. The Government discriminated in favor of ethnic Kazakhs. The Government limited worker rights; it tried to limit the influence of independent trade unions, both directly and through its support for state-sponsored unions, and members of independent trade unions were harassed. Child labor persisted in agricultural areas. Trafficking in women and children, primarily teenage girls, was a problem and local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) accused some customs and border officials of complicity in trafficking.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Legal Profession
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