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 by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. 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, 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 Ayanov would 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 Petropavlovsk where 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.
This appeal was published on the OMCT's website on February 13, 2017.