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Kazakhstan: The Kazakh lawyer, Sergey Sizintsev, disbarred on request of the Ministry of Justice.

27th of June, 2019.

On the 21st of May, 2019, the tribunal of Petropavlovsk had disbarred lawyer Sergey Sizintsev. This disciplinary sanction is probably linked to his criticisms about the independence of lawyer’s profession.

This measure happened few months after he was dismissed from his position of executive Director of the National Bar Association, on the 23rd of October 2018.

Indeed, Sergey Sizintsev occupied this position during two years, from 2016 to 2018. Recently he has been elected Chairman of the Advisory-Scientific Counsel of the National Bar Association.

According to the Ministry of Justice’s complaint, the official motivation of this disbarment would be the prohibition for a lawyer to hold another paid position while continuing his legal practice, under Article 33§11 of the new  Law “On the Professional Activities of Advocates and Legal Assistance” (2018).

It would be a wrong interpretation from the Ministry. For Sergey Sizintsev, the fact to accumulate two positions is allowed by the Kazakh law under the second part of the same Article 33§11 which provides that: “A lawyer has the right to be elected to a paid elected or appointed position in the Bar Association, the Republican Bar Association and international public associations of lawyers”. [...]

Moreover, the lawyer would have asked to the Ministry about the possibility to hold this position among the National Bar Association. The response would have been favorable; the holding of an elective position among the National Bar wouldn’t be subject to disbarment.

According to Sergey Sizintsev, the disbarment’s reasons would be linked to his public statements and criticisms of the Law “On the Professional Activities of Advocates and Legal Assistance”, promulgated on the 10th of July 2018. For several lawyers, this law would be in contradiction with international standards on independence of the legal profession, allowing the executive to influence and control lawyers to exercise and on disciplinary measures against them.

Since the law’s application, several lawyers have been victims of disciplinary procedures, comparable to retaliation measures.

The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (IOLD) expresses its deep concern about the use of disciplinary measures against lawyers using their right to freedom of expression.

The IOLD calls for the case to be reconsidered on appeal, in accordance with Article 33§11 of the Law “On the Professional Activities of Advocates and Legal Assistance”.

The IOLD calls on Kazakh authorities to comply with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the United Nations in Havana, Cuba, in 1990, providing in particular:

  • Principle 23: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights (…)”.
  • Principle 29: “All disciplinary proceedings shall be determined in accordance with the code of professional conduct and other recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession and in the light of these principles”.