Kazakhstan Disbarment of lawyers for 'violating professional ethics'
31 January 2014

Kazakhstan Disbarment of lawyers for ‘violating professional ethics’

 

Two lawyers from Kazakhstan were disbarred for simply doing their job.The lawfulness of one disbarment will now be reviewed by the Supreme Court.


What happened?
Lawyers Lyubov Agushevich and Polina Zhukova represented a defendant in criminal proceedings. During his trial, they submitted motions and requests for recusals. While the lawyers claim that they were just defending clients’ rights by using their professional skills, the presiding judge interpreted their actions as violations of professional ethics.

According to the judge, the lawyers’ misconduct included the submission of a statement of innocence of their client and filing a motion to examine a witness who attended the hearing. The judge also blamed one of the lawyers for ‘putting a question which she knew the answer to’ and ‘reading out a page of the case file’. 

Consequences
The ministry of Justice initiated proceedings against Agushevich and Zhukova for violating professional ethics upon the same grounds and their licenses to practice law were withdrawn. As a result, the lawyers are not entitlement anymore to carry out the legal profession.

One of the lawyers has challenged her disbarment. Polina Zhukova filed a motion to resume proceedings in her case and reconsider the lawfulness of her disbarment. Following its decision to uphold this motion, on 23 January, the Supreme Court started review proceedings.  The hearing in the case took place on 26 February 2014, but no decision has as yet been made.

Concerns
Lawyers for Lawyers  is concerned about the situation of lawyers in Kazakhstan. We were informed about other lawyers dealing with sensitive cases who are subjected to harassment or disbarment on improper grounds, presumably, to prevent from doing their work. The disbarment of Lyubov Agushevich Polina Zhukova and  other lawyers in Kazakhstan seems to be in violation of international standards, amongst others the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Moreover, it may have a chilling effect as lawyers may be reluctant to defend persons in cases they would consider sensitive.

Next steps
Lawyers for Lawyers welcomes the decision of the Supreme court to review the disbarment of Polina Zhukova and will continue to closely monitor her case as well as other cases of disbarment or suspension of lawyers on improper grounds. We will also file a submission in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan later this year. 

 

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