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Statement on the Operating Environment of Human Rights Defenders in Kenya- ACHPR 63 Ordinary session

63rd Ordinary Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Banjul, Gambia

 

Public Session; Human Rights Situation in Africa

25th October 2018

Statement by NATIONAL COALITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS-KENYA (NCHRD-K)

Madame Chairperson, distinguished Commissioners, State Delegates, representatives of NHRIs and NGOs.

 

On behalf of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders -Kenya (NCHRD-K), I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to raise some of the key human rights concerns from Kenya.

We are particularly concerned that the legitimate role of protection and promotion of human rights carried on by human rights defenders and Civil Society Organizations is criminalized and target for reprisal by both state and non-state actors. Below are a few incidences of violation of human rights fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders in Kenya:

Freedom of Association: Kenyan police have continued to harass and threaten HRDs that  demand justice for victims and advocate for accountability for serious injuries, death and destruction of property by security agents following unrest that took  place post 2017 general elections. Most of the incidents reported by HRDs include threats of arrest, warnings against posting information about police brutality, home and office raids, and confiscation of laptops and other items. The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders documented up to 15 cases where activists suffered these intimidation tactics.[1]The protection of HRDs should be adhered to as prescribed by law.

Freedom of Expression: On 29 May 2018, The High Court in Nairobi temporarily suspended 26 sections of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, which was signed into law by the President on 16 May 2018, after an appeal by the Bloggers Association of Kenya, among others.[2] While the objective of the law was to address issues including cybercrime, cyber bullying, phishing, and fake news, the law contains provisions which threaten the freedom of expression, right to privacy, the right to a fair trial. On 3 July, the suspension of the 26 provisions was extended when the Court will hear an application by the Attorney General to have the suspension lifted on the basis that it was erroneously issued.

On 31 July, during a parliamentary session, two journalists with the privately-owned People Daily newspaper were threatened with being barred from covering future parliamentary proceedings and summoned to a legislative committee. The summons was allegedly in connection to stories published on 30-31 July accusing MPs of taking and soliciting bribes from organizations and individuals they were meant to be investigating.[3] Such threats and intimidation tactics affect on the freedom of journalists to carry out their legitimate work.

Freedom of Information: In October 2018, the Kenya government introduced a 15% excise duty tax on internet services through a new Finance bill, effected on 15th October. The Bill restricts Kenyans’ access to internet services which plays a major role in promoting access to information.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: Police arrested two environmental activists on 25 May 2018 during a protest against plans to set up a coal-fired power plant at Kwasasi, Lamu County. The group had sought permission to peacefully assemble and demonstrate but their request was rejected by police who deemed the protest “unlawful.”[4]

The fact that the individuals were arrested while peacefully protesting raises concerns regarding the Kenyan government’s respect for the constitution, Article 11 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights and international law standards that safeguards the right to peacefully assemble.

In light of these updates and observations, we urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

  • Call on the Kenyan Government to provide a conducive legal environment that will ensure that Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) carry out their work without fear of reprisal.
  • Call on the Kenyan government to cease the harassment of journalists who work towards providing information including on the status of human rights in Kenya
  • Call on the government to remove exercise duty tax being charged on internet tariffs to ensure that Kenyans from all walks of life can access the Internet.
  • Urge Kenya to Develop a policy/law for the protection of Human rights Defenders
  • Urge Kenya to revise sections of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill that seeks to limit freedom of expression and privacy.

I thank You

 

[1] https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/04/kenya-police-threaten-activists-reporting-abuse

[2] http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/ea/Court-suspends-portions-of-Kenya-cybercrime-law/4552908-4586250-1kaa55/index.html

[3] https://cpj.org/2018/08/kenyan-parliamentarians-harass-journalists-followi.php

[4] https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/lamu/Police-arrest-2-anti-Lamu-coal-plant-protester/3444912-4579706-ymfm8l/index.html

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