The National Coalition of HRDs has co-signed with 14 other human rights organization a letter to US Secretary of State, John Kerry beforeHis Visit to Kenya on 22/8/2016.
Dear Secretary Kerry,
Your forthcoming visit to Kenya scheduled to take place on 22 August 2016, comes at a time when the country is faced with significant human rights and rule of law challenges. In that regard, we undersigned human rights non-governmental organizations wish to draw your attention to the continued violation of human rights by Kenya’s security agencies in the course of maintaining national security and combatting terrorism.
These human rights violations are characterized by impermissible restrictions on civil society groups’ operations and independent media, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, and violations of the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, among other fundamental breaches of the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
These violations and disregard for international human rights law on the conduct of counter terrorism should be of particular concern to the United States, given Kenya’s position as an ally in the promotion of security and stability in East and Horn of Africa, and because they also undermine the fight against terrorism by creating trust- deficit between communities and security agencies, especially when due process is not followed.
The human rights concerns detailed below are particularly pressing because of their potential to both undermine, and to become exacerbated prior to and during the upcoming 2017 General Elections, that are due in less than 12 months. We urge your intervention specifically on the following concerns and recommendations:
Download the letter at: Letter to US Seretary of State, John Kerry
Enforced Disappearance of Willie Kimani, a Human Rights Defender together With Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri
We the undersigned organizations call for the immediate release of Willie Kimani, a human rights defender/lawyer, and his two associates, Josphat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri, who were abducted by the Administration Police (AP) on 23rd June 2016. The three were abducted as they left the Mavoko Law Courts in Machakos County shortly before 12:00 pm.
Willie, who works for the International Justice Mission (IJM), was in court together with IJM client Josephat Mwenda, a 24 year old father of one who before the 10th April 2015, plied his trade as a Boda boda (motor cycle) rider. This is the culmination of numerous blatant attempts to intimidate Josphat to withdraw a complaint lodged with the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) against a senior Administration Police (AP) officer stationed at Syokimau AP Camp.
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The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders of Kenya (NCHRD-K) and CIVICUS convened a two day Regional Dialogue for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) on reclaiming the space for HRDs to freely and safely carry out activities for the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms on Tuesday 18 August and Wednesday 19 August 2015 to revisit the issue of shrinking space in Africa.
The meeting was informed by ongoing restrictions on human rights defenders and the activities of CSOs by state and non-state actors and the emerging trend in which states duplicate the enactment of retrogressive legislation and repressive measures targeting HRDs. These actions continue to affect the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and in certain cases reverse gains that have been made.
The dialogue bought together human rights defenders and leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from Africa to discuss actionable strategies and methods to reclaim the space for human rights defenders and civil society. It also provided a safe and open platform for experience sharing among HRDs and CSOs, examining the vital role played by human rights defenders as agents of social change and transformation. During the meeting, participants highlighted the challenges faced by HRDs in their various countries and made specific recommendations to Special Rapporteurs, States and CSOs for commensurate responses.
The judiciary in upholding the freedom of association provided for under article 36 of the Constitution of Kenya entered a landmark ruling, on 27th April 2015, for the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Eric Gitari, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission moved to court asking it to determine whether he is a “person” as protected in Article 36 of the Constitution, and if so, whether his right to freedom of association had been infringed.
After a long court battle the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has received a positive judgment through a court ruling by the High Court ordering the NGOs Coordination Board to recognise and register the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission stating that the Constitution allows recognition and protection of the rights of “every person”, including minority groups such as gays and lesbians.
HRD Phyllis Omido, the founder of the Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action, has faced numerous challenges in the course of her advocacy work against state and non-state actors who have for years violated the socio economic rights of the neighbouring communities by exposing them to lead poisoning. Ms. Omido, has worked closely with the NCHRD-K in the realisation of human rights for all. Her valour and persistence has earned her acclaim being awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in April 2015.
Congratulations Ms Omido!
The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya in partnership with Human Rights Agenda and ACT! lobbied the Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Services to discuss the implications of the proposed amendments to the Public Benefits Organisation Act 2013 contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill 2013.
The meeting was attended by thirteen MPs and several members of the Civil Society Organisations Reference Group, a representative of whom facilitated the session giving the MPs a brief history on the development of the PBO Act which was assented to in January 2013 as a result of a highly consultative process with stakeholders from various CSOs, governmental departments and relevant parliamentary committees. It was highlighted that the enactment of the PBO Act 2013 was informed by the need for more coordination of the sector and to ensure harmony with government development plans and constitutional requirements of integrity.
However, the Act had not been operationalised and CSOs were in the process of the development of Rules and Regulations that would operationalise the Act. In October 2013, the amendments were proposed in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous
Amendment) Bill 2013 which threatened to significantly shrink the space within which CSOs work in Kenya. The session was moderated by Kamau Ngugi, the Executive Director of the NCHRD-K saw those present taken through the proposed amendments and their likely impact on CSOs and society as a whole.
Proposed Ammendments to the PBO Act include:-
The MPs were informed of the various contentiuos sections and the proposals by the
CSOs they included:
Section 10A provides for giving the PBO Regulatory Authority the power to impose terms and conditions for the grant of certificates of registration, permits of operation and PBO status.
This proposal threatens the right to freedom of association contrary to Article 36 of the Constitution and Section 3 (f) of the PBO Act which provides for registration procedures, which are transparent, and which will facilitate the establishment of public benefit organisations while safeguarding the freedom of association.
Section 10 (2) to amend S.13 of the PBO Act provides for the substitution of the words “certificate of registration” with “an entry into the register” as conclusive evidence of compliance for registration.
Kenyan laws on registration provide that the issuance of a certificate of registration shall be conclusive evidence of registration. This proposal has no justification and basis in Kenyan law.
Section 27A (1) states that any funding of a PBO shall be made through the
Federation and not by an individual member organization.
The PBO Federation under section 21(9) of the PBO Act is set up to primarily facilitate coordination of self-regulation, capacity building and representation of the sector at various fora. Granting this new administrative role to the Federation will compromise and defeat Section 3(c) of the PBO Act “to promote the development of self-regulation among PBOs” and it fails to address one of the key challenges that led to the formulation of the PBO Act, which is the lack of an effective framework for self-regulation.
Section 27 A (2) and (3) states that a public benefit organization shall not receive more than 15% of its total funding from external donors. In the event that a PBO needs more funds the Cabinet Secretary responsible for finance may approve an amount higher than 15% where there are legitimate and compelling reasons…for increasing the limit.
The government does not have the capacity or political will to substitute the funding that many PBOs will lose with the adoption of the amendment. This will result in PBOs shutting down; reduced public services being offered as well as increased unemployment.
Section 35 (1) stipulates that the Chairperson of the Board of the Authority shall be appointed by the President.
Sections 45(1) and 45(6) provide that the Director General of the PBO Authority shall be appointed and removed by the Cabinet Secretary.
Section 35(1) (g) is deleted and substituted by the inclusion of the Principal Secretary for “internal security” on the Board of the Authority.
These amendments will provide for undue interference by the Executive and incessant power struggles between the Chairperson (a presidential appointee) and Director General (an appointee of Cabinet Secretary).