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 United Nations (UN) identifies the significant role played by regional human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, espoused by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, authorized attempts to support and augment the usefulness of these measures while at the same time augmenting the significance of their cooperation with the UN human rights system. This has been authenticated by the UN General Assembly in a number of its declarations calling for the Secretary-General to keep on strengthening the exchanges between the UN and regional inter-governmental organizations dealing with human rights.
The report is attached below.REPORT-ON-REGIONAL-DIALOGUE-ON-SHRINKING-SPACE
As you prepare to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya, we, a group of Kenyan and international organizations, write to urge you to include critical human rights issues in all your discussions with Kenyan officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In 2010, Kenya passed one of Africa’s most progressive constitutions, demonstrating Kenyans’ commitment to democracy characterized by rule of law and respect for human rights. This commitment should guide how Kenya addresses its greatest challenges – insecurity, corruption, and poverty.
Hassan Guyo, a 40 year old a human rights activist and founder of the organisation, Strategies for Northern Development (SND), was shot dead by security forces in north eastern Kenya while he was carrying out investigations at the scene of demonstrations that had been violently repressed by security forces on 7th August 2013 at around 5.20pm.
An inquest into his death, commenced on 4th June 2014 at the Marsabit Law Courts NCHRD-K, several human rights organisations and the international community have been following the proceedings. During the inquest hearing, fifteen (15) witnesses gave accounts of what had transpired on 7th August 2013. Their testimonies confirmed that there were chaos in Moyale town and as a result several security agents were on patrolling the streets to try and restore calm. Seven (7) witnesses stated that there were many Kenya Defence Force soldiers in the vicinity but there was a group of 3 armed soldiers who were on the front line.
It was difficult for the witnesses to identify the specific soldier who fired the fatal shot as the soldiers were dressed in army uniform and covered their faces with some type of mask and wore helmets. It was noted that the deceased was shot from the back while raising his hands in surrender as he tried to jump back on the motorbike that was ferrying him home.
The ruling of the inquest was delivered on 12th March 2015 and the magistrate ruled that due to lack of sufficient evidence in the case, the file was closed pending further investigations. He cited the fact that no witnesses who had testified could identify the person who fired the shot thus posing a challenge.
The human rights defenders fraternity from Nairobi and North Eastern committed to work together to collect more evidence that would ensure the file is reopened and that Hassan Guyo and his family get the justice.
On 13 March 2015, the high court in Malindi, on appeal on conviction, upheld the conviction of human rights defender, Joel Ogada, who was charged with arson and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Justice Said Chitembwe held that the appeal on conviction lacked merit and was disallowed. He, however, set aside the 7 year sentence and replaced it with 2 years imprisonment from the time of conviction.
Mr. Joel Ogada is a human rights defender and a resident of Marereni in Malindi Kilifi County. Mr. Ogada is a member of Kubuka Farmers Association which was formed to advocate against land injustices perpetrated by the salt farms who have been expanding their land and thus encroaching on the ancestral land of the indigenous community, neighbouring the salt firms, and forcibly evicting them.
As a result of his activities, Mr. Ogada has faced numerous challenges of threats, intimidation and malicious prosecution. In February 2013 it was alleged that Mr. Ogada set fire to Tana Salt in Tana Delta destroying property worth three million. He was charged with arson and in May 2014 he was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.
In 2011 Mr Ogada was charged with assault and in 2013 he was charged with forcible detainer. both criminal matters are still pending in court.