Kazakhstan: Ongoing arbitrary detention of Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov

13/02/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
KAZ 001 / 1016 / OBS 085.4

Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Kazakhstan
February 13, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Max Bokayev [1], Head of the NGO “Arlan” [2] and a human rights defender working for the protection of the environment, freedom of expression and the fight against torture, and Mr. Talgat Ayanov, a lawyer and activist from Atyrau, Western Kazakhstan. Both human rights defenders played a crucial role in organising peaceful protests that took place last April and early May 2016 against the amendments to the Land Code of Kazakhstan.

According to the information received, on January 30, 2017, relatives of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov received two separate letters issued from the pre-trial detention centre in Atyrau. The first one, dated January 25, 2017, was informing them that the two would be transferred to the Penal Colony in Atyrau. This was subsequently confirmed verbally to both Messrs. Bokayev and Ayanov. The second letter, dated January 30, 2017, was informing the relatives of the two defenders that Messrs. Bokayev and Ayanovwould be transferred to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk, Northern Kazakhstan, which is 1,500 km from Atyrau, their home city,to serve their sentence. This is in violation of Kazakhstan’s domestic law, which requires keeping convicts near their place of residence.

On January 27, 2017, Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov were transferred from Atyrau pre-trial detention centre to a pre-trial detention facility in Aktobe, more than 500 km away from Atyrau, their home city, where they remained detained as of February 9, 2017, before being transferred to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk. The relatives of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov have not been informed on a possible date for the transfer of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk, as according to Article 91.7 of the Criminal Executive Code, authorities are requested to take measures on security and confidentiality during transfer process.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and harassment of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov. Moreover, the Observatory fears that imprisonment in the Penal Colony of Petropavlovskwhere conditions of detention are known to be particularly harsh and where they would be cut from regular visits from their family members and lawyers would place them at risk of torture and ill-treatment, in violation of Kazakhstan’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The Observatory urges authorities in Kazakhstan to release Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Background information:

Between April and May 2016, several protests were held in Kazakhstan, gathering hundreds of citizens calling for the abolition of amendments to the Land Code that were introduced in November 2015 [3]. During these protests many were detained and sentenced to administrative detention for “preparation of illegal rallies” or “hooliganism”.

On April 24, 2016, Mr. Max Bokayev participated in a peaceful assembly for which no authorisation had been obtained. On May 6, 2016, Mr. Max Bokayev requested to hold a peaceful assembly on May 21, 2016, but the authorities refused on May 16. The next day, on May 17, Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov were arrested in Atyrau in retaliation for their critical statements posted on Facebook and for making public their intention to participate and encouraging others to take part in the May 21 protests. On the same day, an administrative court sentenced them to 15 days of administrative detention for “organising an unsanctioned assembly” (Article 488 of the Administrative Offences Code) although the rally of May 21 had not yet happened at the time of the arrest.

On May 31, 2016, one day before the end date of their administrative detention, the National Security Committee issued an order charging Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov with the offense of “propaganda or public calls for seizure of power or retention of power or violent change of the constitutional order” under Article 179.1 of the Criminal Code. On July 21 this charges was replaced with “institution of social discord” (Article 174 of the Criminal Code), “dissemination of knowingly false information” (Article 274) and “violation of the procedure of organisation and holding of meetings, rallies, pickets, street processions and demonstrations” (Article 400).

On June 3, 2016, the Investigation Judge of Atyrau Court No. 2 remanded Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov for two months in pre-trial detention. Mr. Bokayev’s request for house arrest due to his critical health condition given that Mr. Bokayev suffers from a chronic hepatitis C and needs constant medical care was rejected. On August 27, 2016, the Judge decided to extend the pre-trial detention. The Prosecutor argued that “Max Bokayev has a lot of friends inside and outside of Kazakhstan and so there’s a fear that he will leave the country”.

On October 12, 2016, the trial against Messrs. Bokayev and Ayanov started beforeAtyrau’s City Court No. 2.

On November 28, 2016, Judge Gulnara Dauleshova of Atyrau’s City Court No. 2 found Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov guilty under Articles 174, 274 and 400. Theywere sentenced to five years in prison under Article 174 Part 2, five years under Article 274 Part. 4, and to a fine of 250 MCI (530,250 tenge, approx. 1,466 EUR) under Article 400. They were also prohibited to engage in social activitiesfor three years. By the rule of absorption of less severe punishment by more severe punishment, the final punishment of the two defenders is of five years’ imprisonment in a penal colony of ordinary regime. The court also ordered the defendants to pay an amount of 259,000 tenge (approx. 716 EUR) as procedural costs. On December 9, 2016, Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov’s lawyers appealed the sentence.

On January 20, 2017, after four hearings, the Criminal Division of the Atyrau Regional Court upheld the verdict and confirmedg the sentencing in first instance by the Atyrau’s City Court No. 2 of Mr. Bokayev and Mr. Ayanov to five years in prison and three years of ban to engage in social activities after their release for “institution of social discord”, “dissemination of knowingly false information” and “violation of the procedure of organisation and holding of meetings, rallies, pickets, street processions and demonstrations”. Messrs. Max Bokayev and algat Ayanov’s lawyers intend to file an appeal against the decision before the Supreme Court.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Kazakhstan asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov, as well as of all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan;

ii. Release Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov, immediately and unconditionally, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov as well as of all human rights defenders in the country so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the UN General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1, 6, 8, 9 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Kazakhstan.

Addresses:

· Mr. Nursultan Nazarbaev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Fax: + 7 3172 32 61 82, 007 / 3172 / 32 40 89
· Mr. Kalmukhanbet Kassymov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan. Email: Kense@mvd.kz
· Mr. Zhakip Assanov, Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan. Fax: +7 7172 506 402
· Mr. Askar Shakirov, Human Rights Commissioner of Kazakhstan. Fax: +7 7172 74 05 48
· Ambassador Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva. Fax: +41 (0) 22 788 66 02. Email: mission@kazakhstan-geneva.ch
· Ambassador Mr. Almaz KHAMZAYEV, Embassy of Kazakhstan in Brussels. Email: brussels@mfa.kz.
· Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the OSCE in Vienna. Fax: +43 1 890 80 08 20. Email: kzosce@kazakhstan.at

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Kazakhstan in your respective country.
***
Geneva-Paris, February 13, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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