Geneva-Paris, August 24, 2017 – The Kazakh authorities should immediately comply with the Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the case of Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov, which demands their release and appropriate compensation following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH).
During its seventy-eight session, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) adopted the Opinion No. 16/2017 qualifying the detention of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov as arbitrary. The UNWGAD recognises that “the detention of Mr. Bokayev and Mr. Ayanov was due to their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and was contrary to Article 26 of the Covenant” .
“The trial against Max Bokayev ant Talgat Ayanov was a precedent-setting one where the very right to peaceful protest in Kazakhstan was at stake and their conviction sent a clear message regarding the lack of commitment to human rights in the country. This Opinion is a chance for Kazakhstan to rescind their shameful conviction and we hope that the authorities will seize it”, declared Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
The judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Max Bokayev, a prominent civil society activist who heads the NGO “Arlan”, and Mr. Talgat Ayan, a lawyer and activist, has been ongoing since May 17, 2016. On that day, they were both arrested in Atyrau, Western Kazakhstan, in retaliation for their role in peaceful protests against controversial amendments to Kazakhstan’s Land Code that took place in Kazakhstan in April and May, 2016, as well as their critical statements on this issue on social media platforms. In response to the peaceful land reform protests, the Kazakhstani authorities adopted a predominantly repressive approach, including by detaining well-known civic activists and civil society leaders, as well as by refusing to grant authorisation for peaceful rallies.
On November 28, 2016, Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov were convicted to five years in prison and three years of ban to engage in social activities after their release on charges of “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”. The conviction was subsequently confirmed onJanuary 20, 2017, by the Criminal Division of the Atyrau Regional Court and on February 20, 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the application for review filed by the legal defence.
“The Observatory has closely followed this case since the very beginning through various advocacy actions, the monitoring of the trials and by filing the submission to the UN body. We will not rest until this Opinion is fully implemented and Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov are released and compensated once and for all”, declared Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.
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.
For more information, please contact:
• OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41 22 809 49 39
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94
 The session took place in Geneva between April 19 and 28, 2017.