Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court Continues to Uphold Legal Sovereignty and Citizen Rights

The primary responsibility of the Constitutional Court, is to meticulously scrutinize laws and normative legal acts to ensure compliance with the country’s Constitution, often referred to as the Basic Law.

In every developed democracy, constitutional control bodies are considered as custodians of a state’s legal sovereignty. Tasked with safeguarding constitutional order, fundamental human rights, and freedoms, these bodies are entrusted to embody the state’s ideals of law, justice, and humanism enshrined in its constitution.

Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court initially operated between 1993 and 1995. It was re-established last year as a result of constitutional amendments in 2022, after citizens voted in favour of these amendments at a national referendum. This became a pivotal milestone in strengthening the rights of Kazakhstan’s citizens. It marked the government’s commitment to enhancing mechanisms for citizen protection and ensuring the comprehensive provision, observance, and enforcement of the country’s Constitution.

The primary responsibility of the Constitutional Court, a successor to the Constitutional Council which operated since 1995, is to meticulously scrutinize laws and normative legal acts to ensure compliance with the country’s Constitution, often referred to as the Basic Law. This function is critical as the Constitution establishes the fundamental principles and values that govern the nation. By ensuring that all laws are consistent with these principles, the Constitutional Court safeguards the legal framework within which the country operates. This oversight helps prevent arbitrary governance and protects the rights and freedoms of citizens, promoting fairness and justice within society.

Notably, the Constitutional Court, which consists of 11 judges, commenced its work during the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasizing Kazakhstan’s aim to uphold human rights and freedoms. Aligned with the United Nations’ theme of “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for all”, the Constitutional Court is resolute in its mission. Unlike before, where only government entities could apply to the Constitutional Council, every citizen can now appeal to the Constitutional Court, including the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Prosecutor General.

The surge in appeals from citizens over the past year indicates the value of the Court, the importance of protecting citizen rights, and aligning legislative acts with the country’s Constitution. From January 2023 to April 2024, the Constitutional Court received over 6,700 appeals, the vast majority from citizens. The appeals covered issues such as housing, labor, social protection, bankruptcy, and access to information. Notably, citizens primarily sought to verify the constitutionality of laws and regulatory legal acts in 27% of the appeals.

The significant volume of citizen appeals is the result of the Constitutional Court’s accessibility to the public.

In addition to handling these appeals, the court actively engages in efforts to enhance public awareness and understanding of its pivotal role and functions. To achieve this, the court organizes a variety of educational initiatives such as seminars, conferences, and panel discussions. For instance, the Constitutional Court organized a webinar for over 1,300 lawyers and legal consultants. In addition, more than 200 students from the law faculties of leading universities in the country participated in open lectures conducted by the Court’s judges. These events are designed to foster a dialogue between the court and the community it serves, ensuring a broader comprehension and appreciation of its judicial activities and responsibilities.

Significantly, the Court’s decisions and recommendations are binding on state bodies and officials. Since its inception in January 2023, the Court has issued 42 regulatory decisions. The binding aspect of the Court’s decisions guarantees that all governmental actions align with the highest legal standards set forth in the Constitution, ensuring uniform application and interpretation of the law throughout the country.

Additionally, these decisions play a crucial role in shaping the legal culture, guiding judicial practice, and promoting a fair and democratic legal system. By setting legal precedents, the Court’s rulings influence future legislation and judicial decisions, facilitating consistency and predictability in legal outcomes. This is critical for maintaining public trust and confidence in the legal system.

Furthermore, collaboration between different constitutional bodies and international organizations is essential to enhance the effectiveness of constitutional governance. It enables the sharing of best practices and support in the tasks of constitutional interpretation and enforcement. This cross-institutional collaboration is required to adapt to global legal trends and challenges, while also ensuring that constitutional practices remain relevant. In this regard, we will continue to cooperate with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the Eurasian Association of Constitutional Control Bodies, the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions and Turk-Ai.

This commitment to international collaboration paves the way for broader inclusivity, as seen in the Constitutional Court’s initiative to make constitutional knowledge accessible to all citizens. In this regard, we initiated the publication of the updated Kazakh Constitution in Braille following the 2022 national referendum. The Braille constitution targets the more than 160,000 visually impaired individuals in Kazakhstan, providing them access to the nation’s Basic Law. The Braille versions will be distributed across libraries, training centers, and special schools, further supporting the rights and integration of citizens with disabilities.

Ultimately, adherence to and implementation of the Constitutional Court’s conclusions and provisions are vital for upholding legality, stability, and the rule of law. By upholding the constitution and ensuring that all laws and policies align with the principles of justice and equality, the Court ensures the protection of individual rights and the rule of law. This, in turn, maintains a stable legal environment, which is essential for economic growth and democratic governance.

Elvira Azimova
Elvira Azimova
Chairwoman of the Constitutional Court of Kazakhstan