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UN expert raises alarm as Kazakhstan jails twice a rights defender for convening a peaceful assembly

GENEVA (1 September 2015) – United Nations human rights expert Maina Kiai today called on the Kazakhstan authorities to immediately release and drop all charges against civil society activist Ermek Narymbaev, and to end what appears to be the criminalization of peaceful protests.

“Public dissent is a hallmark of a democracy and a confident state”, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said, expressing concern at the arrest and detention - for the second time this year- of lawyer and human rights defender Ermek Narymbaev for his role in convening a peaceful assembly and denouncing corruption cases.

“Civil society actors are key players in securing sustainable human rights protection. It is essential that they can operate freely, online as well as offline, Mr. Kiai said.

During both of his trials in June and August 2015, Mr. Narymbaev was found guilty of ‘organizing an unauthorized public event’ in violation of the New Code on Administrative Offenses that regulates peaceful assemblies, rallies, marches, pickets and demonstrations. “The New Code contains provisions that are contrary to both Kazakhstan’s constitution and international human rights law that Kazakhstan has ratified”, Mr. Kiai stated.

“I am also seriously concerned about Mr. Narymbaev’s health condition and whether he is receiving adequate medical treatment,” the expert said, noting that he has received information that the activist’s health has rapidly deteriorated during his detention in a special facility for individuals sentenced to administrative arrest.

“As stated in my report* on Kazakhstan presented to the Human Rights Council in June this year, “there is a tangible difference between rule of law and the rule by law,” Mr. Kiai said. “Laws are meant to serve the people; not vice versa, and any other interpretation is likely to erode its essential meaning.”

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Kazakhstan authorities of their legal obligations under international human rights law that guarantees everyone in the country the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly, and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

“The State has the primary responsibility to protect human rights defenders from any form of harassment, intimidation and retaliation arising as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities,” he stressed.

A group of UN independent experts is in contact with the Government of Kazakhstan to clarify the issues in question.

Mr. Kiai’s present appeal has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, seong-Phil Hong.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report on Kazakhstan: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/29/25/Add.2


Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya) was designated by the UN Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in May 2011. Mr. Kiai has been the Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme, and the Africa Director of the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights). - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16302&LangID=E#sthash.kcslg10R.dpuf

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Learn more, log on to:
Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx
Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
Arbitrary Detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Kazakhstan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/KZIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Marissa Storozum (Tel: +41 22 917 9689 / freeassembly@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en