Unintended Consequences – Kazakh Reform Edition

Under Soviet law, suspects could be detained for up to 48 hours without further legal action being taken. Kazakhstan inherited this legal state of affairs and, presumably with the best of intentions, set about to make a few improvements. Reformers were especially taken with a New Zealand statute requiring explicit judicial approval for detentions lasting longer than the maximum specified duration.*

One imagines the logic was something like:

1. Some number of people are currently illegally detained for longer than 48 hours
2. Erecting explicit legal barriers to the occurrence of illegal detention (as opposed to, “Oh shit, we forgot he was still in there”, I guess?) will reduce the number of illegal detentions
3. Profit

Aside from the nebulous link between steps two and three, it seems like pretty unassailable reasoning.** What actually happened…was the reverse. Judges turned into approval machines for prosecutors’ requests for extended detention, since, if the prosecutor thought the detainee in question required additional time in the slammer, by Jove, there was probably a good reason for it. Soviet legal thought at its best. In formulating the law, it appears nobody considered the effects of its implementation in a completely different legal context, and as a result, we have been unwittingly given a new variant of “democracy without democrats”: Kiwi laws without Kiwis.

*Unfortunately a few highly cursory searches did not turn up any references to this episode, so I can’t prove it is nothing more than the fevered day dreams of a law professor

**Or not so nebulous? It doesn’t seem toooo far fetched to imagine a fairly explicit Kazakh calculation at one point or another along the lines of: Western-style legal system -> Western oil investors -> profit