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October 23, 2017

Uhuru's administration most hostile to human rights defenders - report

Human rights activists bared by police officers at urban divisional offices during a demonstration on July 4, 2016. /ELKANA JACOB
Human rights activists bared by police officers at urban divisional offices during a demonstration on July 4, 2016. /ELKANA JACOB

President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration has made human rights defenders' work unbearable.

An international human rights lobby says this is so despite the Constitution expanding guarantees to fundamental rights.

This is captured in a 50-page report dubbed 2017 Elections: Broken Promises Put Human Rights Defenders At Risk.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said rights defenders are treated as enemies of the state.

The further note that defenders, when they attempt to hold public officials to account, are violently repulsed by police.

The report, which was compiled in October last year, say the current regime has undermined activists' freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

"This has been through judicial, administrative harassment and restrictive legislations."

"Kenya is short from keeping its human rights obligations and commitments," Peter Zangl, Observatory Mission delegate, said.

Severe crackdown, progressive shrinking of civil society space, extra-judicial violence against defenders triggered the study.

Samuel Mohochi, ICJ executive director, said violence includes harassment, torture, enforced disappearances under the guise counter-terrorism operations.

"We have seen anti-corruption crusaders taken to court and persecuted, circulars being issued against the civil society."

"Police walk to our offices demanding to see files. Human rights defenders live in fear. This tells a story of regression creeping back," Mohochi said.

IMLU executive director Peter Kiama said prohibitive laws like the penal code have also slowed the human rights movement.

On his part, George Kegoro from Kenya Human Rights Commission said relations between the state and civil society has been strained under Jubilee.

The report says that increasing patterns of criminalisation and intimidation of human rights defenders through trumped-up charges, episodes of frequent arrests, detention in the police station and long trials represents a serious concern.

"They are used as a means to harass, traumatise and exhaust defenders and in fine prevent them human rights."

"It is fundamental that Kenyan authorities, especially in view of the upcoming elections, publicly recognise the essential role played by human rights defenders," the report says.

The Observatory group recommended that Public Benefit Organization Act 2013 is enforced to streamline the regulation of civil society sector.

"This will close the door for abuses and administrative harassment being witnesses today," the report states in part.
















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