Kazakhstan: on the way to unprecedented changes in justice

Kazakhstan has become the first country among the post-Soviet countries to open a Justice Services Centre free to the public one stop. The Centre in Astana represents a real breakthrough in the relationship between prosecutors and the public moving the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) from being primarily a post-Soviet law supervisory state body to a modern public service-oriented organisation. The prosecutors can be proud of this quick victory since it took just seven months between considering the innovative idea at one of the GPO Change Programme Board brainstorming sessions to its opening to the public in July 2017.

The main task of the centre is the prompt resolution of complaints, raising the level of citizens’ trust in law enforcement and government bodies, whilst eliminating the administrative burdens and bureaucracy.

This centre operates on the principle of a “single window” that breaks with all traditions with use of glass walls and bright colours to provide a comfortable and warm reception to users, located within the prestigious and modern building of the General Prosecutor’s Office national headquarters building. Here visitors can access prosecutors, lawyers, mediators, or other specialists, depending on the nature of the issue.

The use of latest technologies widens the horizon of services available for the citizens. They can send appeals to the judicial committee or record a video message to the General Prosecutor’s Office in a separate booth. To do this, a person needs to bring an identity card to the barcode reader and then record an appeal. The answer to their inquiries will come to their e-mails or one might just enter the number of the inquiry and find out the answer. The necessary digital signature for this can be obtained there, on the spot.

The Justice Services Centre is a part of the Change Programme announced by the General Prosecutor’s Office in January 2017. The NICO EUCJ project team provided project management training to senior staff in the General Prosecutor’s Office, which has evolved to an organisation-wide transformational change programme being facilitated by the project. The Change Programme’s goal is to provide substantial modernisation and revision of the Prosecution Service and, in due course, other parts of the criminal justice system. This has involved the EUCJ providing intensive support for the establishment of the change strategy, the change board, an operational team of change agents through the national and regional GPO structure and a support network to ensure the involvement of staff and communities across all oblasts in the change programme. The project team has provided coaching and mentoring support to the Change Programme Board and its members.

The launch of the Justice Service Centre in Astana is a remarkable example of the short-term outcomes of the Change Programme with its truly template breaking inter-agency accessibility in a custom built environment. Throughout 2017, such centres will be established in other major cities throughout the country.

Funded by the European Union (EU), the EUCJ project is aimed at strengthening the rule of law in Kazakhstan. Launched in October 2015, this three-year project has a total budget of EUR 5.5 million and forms a part of the larger programme “Support to Judicial Reform in Kazakhstan,” administered by the EU Delegation in Kazakhstan. The project is implemented by Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO) in partnership with Ministry of Justice of the United Kingdom, Dutch Probation Service and National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, Poland.

The author is EUCJ national expert for stakeholder relations.