Public Statement - The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns about the arrest and detention of human rights lawyer Ermek Narymbaev in Kazakhstan

TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2015 /CNW/ - Ermek Narymbaev is well-known for exposing financial fraud carried out by banks in Kazakhstan. He also provides legal advice to those that have been deliberately misinformed by banks. In 2011, Ermek Narymbaev was awarded the Kazakh "Freedom" award.

It has come to our attention that on 12 October 2015, Ermek Narymbaev was arrested, along with Serikzhan Mambetalin, former head of the Rukhaniyat party. Reports indicate that police officers searched Ermek Narybaev's office and home and confiscated laptops and modems. Zhanara Balgabaeva, Ermek Narymbaev's lawyer, who arrived once the search began, was permitted by police to be present during the search of Ermek Narybaev's home but not during the search of his office. According to a police statement, Ermek Narymbaev and Serikzhan Mambetalin's arrests were based on information that "they had circulated material on social media that contains clear signs of inciting national discord [and] insulting national honor and dignity." It is our understanding that the charges appear to be connected to Facebook posts about the writings of another activist. Ermek Narymbaev could face up to 10 years in prison for "inciting social, national, clan, racial, class, or religious discord."

According to reports, Ermek Narymbaev was jailed twice this year for up to 20 days attempting to stage peaceful protests — his most recent arrest prior to this one took place on 20 August 2015.

In concern over these reports, The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the government of Kazakhstan to consider Articles 16 and 23 of the United Nations' Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers

Article 16 states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Moreover, Article 23 states:

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the rights to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.

The Law Society urges the government of Kazakhstan to:


guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ermek Narymbaev;


guarantee all the procedural rights that should be accorded to Ermek Narymbaev and other human rights lawyers and defenders in Kazakhstan;


put an end to all acts of harassment against Ermek Narymbaev as well as other human rights lawyers and defenders in Kazakhstan;


ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.

*The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 49,000 lawyers and 7,400 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.

The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information: Susan Tonkin at 416-947-7605 or The Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N6


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