URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
KAZ 001 / 1016 / OBS 085.5
Release / Harassment
February 19, 2021
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.
The Observatory has been informed about the release and continuing judicial harassment of Max Bokayev, head of the NGO “Arlan” and a human rights defender working for the protection of the environment, freedom of expression and the fight against torture.
On February 4, 2021, Max Bokayev was released from a penal colony in Atyrau, Western Kazakhstan, upon completion of his five-year sentence for his crucial role in organising peaceful protests that took place in April and May 2016 against the amendments to the Land Code of Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev had subsequently imposed a moratorium on the amendments, yet Mr. Bokayev remained in prison. The Observatory recalls that the five-year sentence against Max Bokayev also provided that the latter shall be banned from engaging in social activities for three additional years from the date of his release (see below).
One month ago, the penitentiary administration of the colony N UG-157/9 requested that Max Bokayev be placed under administrative oversight upon his release. This provides for a set of restrictions on leaving the house at certain times or on staying in certain places as determined by the security authorities. The Observatory notes that those additional post-sentence administrative restrictions are usually imposed on individuals who have served sentences for terrorism and extremism offences or who have been placed on the list of persons linked to terrorist and extremist activities in Kazakhstan.
On January 22, 2021, the Atyrau Criminal Court No. 2 granted the above-mentioned administrative oversight request for a period of three years. On February 10, 2021, the Appeals Board of the Atyrau Regional Court denied the appeal of Max Bokayev’s lawyer to overturn the decision.
On February 18, 2021, the Atyrau Criminal Court No. 2 granted a second petition for administrative oversight, which came this time from the Atyrau Police Department. The decision prohibits Mr. Bokayev from leaving his house on weekends and public holidays as well as from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays, except to perform his work duties. The list of proposed restrictions further includes the prohibition of leaving Atyrau without a special written permission by the police and a ban on visiting public places in order to discuss and express opinions on socially significant issues. Any action that the authorities consider to be a violation of these restrictions imposed by the court may result in the replacement of administrative supervision with a real term of imprisonment. Max Bokayev will appeal the decision.
The Observatory deplores the decision to place Max Bokayev under administrative oversight, which wrongfully deprives him of a number of civil rights and freedoms and constitutes a continuation of his politically motivated persecution.
The Observatory recalls that Max Bokayev was arrested in May 2016 along with Talgat Ayanov, a lawyer and activist from Atyrau. They were both sentenced in November 2016 to five years in a penal colony and a three-year ban on engaging in “social activities” for “incitement of social discord” (Article 174.2 of the Criminal Code), “dissemination of knowingly false information” (Article 274.4) and “violation of the procedure of organisation and holding of meetings, rallies, pickets, street processions and demonstrations” (Article 400). The sentence was subsequently confirmed on appeal. Moreover, in February 2017, Mr. Bokayev and Mr. Ayanov were placed on the list of persons linked to terrorist and extremist activities in Kazakhstan. In April 2018, Mr. Ayanov was conditionally released after paying the fine he had been sentenced to but remained under the obligation to present himself periodically to the police and under a prohibition to conduct any “social activities” during a period of three years. Mr. Bokayev also paid his fine but remained detained.
In August 2017, following a submission by the Observatory, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had declared that the detention of Mr. Bokayev and Mr. Ayanov was arbitrary.
In June 2020, Max Bokayev contracted Covid-19 while in detention.
The Observatory welcomes the release of Max Bokayev but recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place, his detention being arbitrary as it only aimed at sanctioning his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.
The Observatory further condemns the ongoing restrictions and harassment against Mr. Bokayev, which seems to be merely aimed at preventing him from carrying out his legitimate human rights work.
Please write to the authorities in Kazakhstan, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Max Bokayev as well as of all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan;
ii. Lift the three-year ban on engaging in social activities as well as the administrative oversight placed on Max Bokayev, put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;
iii. Ensure that all judicial proceedings in Kazakhstan are carried out in full compliance with the right to a fair trial as protected under international law.
- H.E. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, Twitter: @TokayevKZ
- Mr. Yerlan Turgumbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Email: Kense@mvd.kz
- Mr. Marat Beketayev, Minister of Justice, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Mr. Almaz Khamzayev, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Brussels, Belgium, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Kazakhstan located in your country.
Geneva-Paris, February 19, 2021
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 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@fidh-omct.org
- Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39
- Tel FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
 Arlan focuses on public scrutiny over governmental actions and the right of citizens to participate in public life, environmental protection especially in the context of the operation of oil companies, and various social issues both at the local and national levels.
 Max Bokayev is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) since 2011, a member of the “Zhanaozen-2011” International Committee under the “Journalists in Trouble” Public Foundation, the initiator of the “Azat” Coalition (freedoms and liberties on the Internet), and an active participant in the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) on the prevention of torture in prisons. In 2016, he was appointed as head of the NPM regional group in Atyrau oblast.
 In November 2015, draft amendments to the Land Code, aiming at facilitating the lease of agriculturall and by foreigners were presented to the Parliament in Kazakhstan. The amendments were adopted and should have entered into force in July 2016. Protesters contended that the changes infringed upon the rights of Kazakh citizens and landowners.