GENEVA / WARSAW – UN human rights experts* today called on Kazakhstan to immediately release human rights defenders Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, who are currently in jail for organizing peaceful demonstrations.
The two rights defenders were sentenced in November to five years in prison for ‘inciting social discord’, ‘disseminating information known to be false’, and ‘violating the procedure for holding assemblies’.
They were also banned from engaging in public activities for three years after serving their sentences for their roles in organizing protests in April and May 2016 to oppose the proposed amendments to Kazakhstan’s land code.
“Not only the legal process against Mr. Bokayev and Mr. Ayan raised serious questions about its fairness, but also the charges brought against them essentially criminalized their rights to peaceful assembly and free expression of dissenting views,” the experts said.
“The rights defenders, Max and Talgat, should have never faced prosecution for exercising their rights,” they said.
“Such prosecution, reportedly tainted with procedural and due process violations, runs counter to Kazakhstan’s international commitments on human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The experts further called the Kazakh authorities review the legal proceedings and ensure full compliance with the international and regional guarantees of the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression.
“Free and peaceful exercise of universally guaranteed human rights should never be criminalized,” the UN experts concluded.
(*) The experts: Mr. Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mr. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The full press release is available in English via OHCHR.