• Rebuilding must be informed by human rights. However, rebuilding faces challenges and key among them are threats to human rights defenders.
• Everyone will be fighting to get back to where they were before the pandemic. They will step on each other’s toes, leading to further harassment and abuses.
The world marked International Human Rights Day on Thursday, December 10.
The day is marked every year to commemorate the coming into force of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a UN document considered to be the source and foundation of present-day human rights standards and guidelines across the globe.
This year’s theme was 'Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Right' in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to salvage the situation and get back to normalcy.
The theme is reinforcing the need to ensure recovery is anchored on human rights values and principles.
We have witnessed human rights abuses in Kenya, many other parts of Africa and Africa during this pandemic.
As a result of unprecedented restrictive measures to contain the spread of the virus, security authorities have been in the spotlight as they overstepped their mandate and went overboard to enforce the health guidelines.
Gross human rights violations have been reported in many parts of the world, including killings.
An important highlight was the murder of George Floyd in the US. In Kenya, the killing of 13-year-old Yassin Moyo, who was shot by police enforcing the dusk-to-dawn curfew, remains in the hearts of many Kenyans.
Besides the killings, there have been other abuses reported, among them torture, harassment, sexual and gender-based violence.
The young and the old have been victims. With the distribution of Covid-19 vaccine starting an infection increasing in many countries, the world must now ponder that the recovery and human rights should to be at the core of it.
People require a recovery process that is non-discriminatory and one that puts everyone at the same level. Human rights offer a firm foundation to rebuild and recover from the pandemic.
Further, it is human rights that have suffered the most from the effects of the disease and it’s only fair that the world is reminded about them.
In Kenya, rebuilding equally must be informed by human rights. However, this rebuilding faces challenges and key among them are threats to human rights defenders.
In the last few months, there has been what can be termed a systematic attack on human rights organisations and individuals by security authorities in different parts of the country.
From Mombasa to Nairobi, Wajir to Kisumu, human rights defenders have been arrested, harassed and threatened in various ways.
So open has it been that even state authorities and officials have gone public to condemn the extra-legal means used against these rights defenders in some of the harassment cases?
The police are in the spotlight and eyes are on them to assess how they will react during the recovery. To start with, police will need to ensure they stop abusing human rights.
The National Police Service leadership should work on ensuring they give clear instructions to their officers to fully adhere to human rights standards and keep off any form of abuse.
Police must also ensure they work to support an environment conducive for citizens to rebuild their lives and reconstruct their families from the effects of the pandemic.
The rule of law must guide the work of the police and they must stop operating with impunity, which is rampant in the service.
For human rights defenders, the work must go on.
While it was difficult to promote and protect human rights during the pandemic, it will be even more difficult to do the same in the recovery period.
This is because everyone will be fighting to get their house in order and to get back to where they were before the pandemic.
In the process, they will step on each other’s toes, which will lead to further harassment and abuses. Human rights defenders, therefore, have a duty to ensure they remain available and at the disposal of their communities to stop violations.
The recovery from the pandemic will best work if we all work together to ensure full adherence to human rights and rule of law.