The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, appointed The Rt. Hon. The Lord Burnett of Maldon, as Chief Justice of the AIFC Court, upon the retirement of the Rt. Hon The Lord Mance, Chief Justice of the AIFC Court from 1 January 2020 until 31 October 2023.
Lord Burnett was the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2017 until 30 September 2023. He studied law at Pembroke College, Oxford University, and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1980. He practiced as a barrister and was head of a barrister chambers from 2003. He was Junior Counsel to the UK Crown from 1992 and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel (now King’s Counsel) in 1998. In addition to his legal practice at the Bar, he was Counsel to high profile inquests including the inquest into the 1997 deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed.
He became a Judge in 2008 and was presiding Judge of the English Western Circuit from 2011 until 2014. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2014. He was Vice Chairman of the independent Judicial Appointments Commission from 2015 until 2017. In July 2017, at the age of 59, he was the youngest Lord Chief Justice to be appointed since 1958. As Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett was President of all the Courts of England and Wales.
Lord Burnett has an impeccable reputation in the UK and worldwide. His appointment to the AIFC Court as Chief Justice is a significant achievement for the AIFC Court and for the AIFC.
The AIFC Court began its operations on 1 January 2018, and during the time of the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mance’s term of office as Chief Justice, developed a case load, profile and reputation far exceeding that of any equivalent commercial courts. By 2 November 2023, the AIFC Court gave 87 Judgments. The Judgments are freely accessible via the AIFC Court website in English, Kazakh and Russian languages. All Judgments were enforced to 100% satisfaction within the entire territory of Kazakhstan applying the AIFC Court’s step by step enforcement procedure and without involvement of the Kazakhstan national courts.
The highest value claimed in a case was USD 330 million and the cases increasingly involved claims in the multi millions of USD. Investors with business in Kazakhstan from 27 countries, including most Eurasian countries and other key Kazakhstan trading partners such as China, UAE, and India, used the AIFC Court to decide business disputes. Investors, including global corporations, Chevron, Shell, NCOC, and Caterpillar, included the AIFC Court in more than 7,500 business contracts for dispute resolution. 551 lawyers from 30 countries (32 jurisdictions), from 6 continents, registered with the AIFC Court for rights of audience to represent Parties in cases at the AIFC Court. 73 memoranda of understanding were agreed with local, regional, and international dispute resolution centres.
The AIFC Court has world class physical premises in Astana, and in Almaty, Kazakhstan. AIFC Court hearing rooms were launched in 8 countries within Eurasia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The AIFC Court has cutting edge digital technology with eJustice and video hearings and cases are often heard via video to ensure maximum efficiency.
Lord Burnett commented:
“It is a great honour to serve as Chief Justice of the AIFC Court in succession to The Rt. Hon the Lord Mance, and before him, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Woolf CH. The AIFC Court has a recognised profile and has attracted interest worldwide for its independent justice and strict adherence to the rule of law, providing a secure foundation to facilitate business and investment. It is of importance not only in Kazakhstan, but for the Eurasia region generally. I recognise the vision displayed by the leadership of Kazakhstan in promoting the AIFC Court and the “Astana” International Financial Centre and am confident that both institutions will continue to achieve outstanding results. I look forward to following in the footsteps of my distinguished predecessors and taking the AIFC Court forwards.”
Lord Mance added:
“I am grateful to the leadership of the Republic of Kazakhstan for their trust and I am proud of the work that the whole team at the AIFC Court has done during the past four years and very grateful to the other members of the team with whom I have had the privilege of cooperating. The AIFC Court is unique in Eurasia and has in a short period of years developed a caseload, profile and reputation far exceeding that of any other equivalent commercial courts. The Court’s website shows the range and depth of the disputes which are now, and each year increasingly, entrusted to the Court, and have been enforced. There is growing recognition from investors in Kazakhstan and more widely throughout Eurasia that the Court can be trusted for independent and impartial justice applying the highest international standards of commercial law expertise and with strictest adherence to the rule of law. I look forward to seeing the Court continue and further expand in this role, under the leadership of my successor, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Burnett of Maldon, and I extend to him and to the whole team at the AIFC, every possible good wish.”
In other appointments at the AIFC Court, Justice Tom Montagu-Smith KC was elevated from the AIFC Small Claims Court to the senior AIFC Court. Two new Judges, Josephine Higgs KC (7 Kings Bench Walk, London, UK), and Saima Hanif KC (3 Verulam Buildings, London, UK), were appointed as Justices of the AIFC Small Claims Court.
The AIFC Court is an independent legal entity. It has its own procedural rules modelled on English common law procedures and leading international practice. The AIFC Court is separate and independent from the courts of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It consists of two tiers: a Court of First Instance, which includes a specialist division known as the Small Claims Court; and a Court of Appeal. It has exclusive jurisdiction over disputes arising out of the activities and operations of the AIFC and jurisdiction in the case of other disputes in which all parties agree in writing to give the AIFC Court jurisdiction. It does not have jurisdiction in relation to disputes that are of a criminal or administrative nature. It applies the most up to date and efficient case management practices.
Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) is an independent jurisdiction with a favourable legal and regulatory environment and developed infrastructure for starting and doing business, attracting investments, creating jobs, and developing Kazakhstan's economy. www.aifc.kz