Statement on the Conviction of Kazakhstani Human Rights Defenders Maks Bokayev and Talgat Ayan

Canada joins the European Union, the United States, and others in expressing our concern over the decision of a Kazakhstani court to sentence human rights defenders Maks Bokayev and Talgat Ayan to five years imprisonment for their alleged roles in organizing peaceful demonstrations in the spring of 2016.  The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental to democratic and inclusive societies.  Human rights defenders play a key role in protecting and promoting human rights, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring long-term social stability.

Canada shares the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and encourages Kazakhstan to ensure that fundamental freedoms are protected, in line with Kazakhstan’s constitution and its obligations under international law. Canada also remains concerned over the conduct and fairness of the legal process under which these two individuals were convicted, and encourages Kazakhstan to guarantee free and fair trials. Canada reiterates its recommendation made under Kazakhstan’s last Universal Periodic Review that Kazakhstan take steps to further strengthen the impartiality and independence of the judiciary and thoroughly investigate any allegations or complaints of corruption in its courts.

Canada continues to support institutional reforms in Kazakhstan and urges authorities to ensure that laudable progress is not undermined by the repression of the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully or through the criminalization of peaceful dissent. The free exchange of ideas and perspectives creates opportunities to build inclusive and prosperous societies.