Drastic measures

True story accompanying image

At the age of 84, Alma* set about writing her will. She owned a plot of land that had been in her family for decades, and intended to leave it to her daughter. On checking the deeds, however, it transpired that six square metres of her property officially belonged to someone else. Alma went to court to claim ownership of the plot in its entirety, and was granted it. On checking over the documentation, however, Alma noticed a significant misprint. Instead of the six square metres in question, the court had adjudicated upon six square centimetres.

Alma promptly returned to court to have the ruling overturned, but was refused. She spent the next year in and out of various courts, all the way to Kazakhstan's Supreme Court. But to no avail. At which point Alma contacted Transparency International (TI) Kazakhstan.

TI Kazakhstan contacted the judges who had been involved in Alma's case, but, bizarrely, each one maintained that the ruling could not be reversed. So TI lawyers turned to the media instead. The case received broad coverage in the press and on national television, prompting court officials to renege on their initial ruling. Alma's deeds were amended, and she was finally able to complete her will.

Alma's case illustrates some of the shortcomings of Kazakhstan's judicial system with great clarity. A system that repeatedly denies an elderly lady what is rightfully hers is in urgent need of reform.

* Names have been changed

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