In October 2014, ARTICLE 19 examined the compliance with international human rights standards of a Draft Amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure of Kazakhstan which bans the criticism of court decisions.
The analysis was also carried out from a comparative perspective, in particular, ARTICLE 19 considered the case law of the European Court of Human Rights which has examined several cases concerning court reporting. The Court has recognised that issues concerning the functioning of the justice system constitute questions of public interest and criticism of the judiciary fulfils a vital function in a democratic society. The media should be able to cover trials and formulate and disseminate their views and opinions on important issues involved in the court cases. The criticism of court decision also gives the courts an opportunity to obtain feedback on how their judicial decisions are understood by the public. The ban on criticism of court decisions in the Draft Amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure of Kazakhstan runs against these principles. In addition, it fails to meet the test for the legality of restrictions on the right to freedom of expression set out in Article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as it is excessive and unnecessarily affects media freedom, public debate on the functioning of the judiciary and academic freedom. Finally, the ban on criticism of court decisions does not meet the proportionality test for interferences with the right to freedom of expression because, on balance, the harm caused to the overall public interest is greater than any interest it may seek to protect.
Therefore, ARTICLE 19 calls on the legislator to remove the proposed provisions from the draft Civil Code of Procedure.