Kenyan police must not use unnecessary force in their handling of any election-related protests, said Amnesty International today amid fear and uncertainty in the country after the opposition rejected the initial publicly announced results.
In a live press briefing this morning, opposition candidate Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, alleged the electoral commission’s website had been hacked and the results manipulated in favour of the ruling Jubilee Party. He claimed the system had been hacked using the log-in details of Chris Msando, the top election body official who was found murdered on 31 July.
Initial publicly announced results showed the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta leading in the votes.
Following today’s ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights that the Kenyan government violated the rights of the Indigenous Ogiek people when it evicted them from their land, Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for the Ogiek community, and gives hope to all Indigenous peoples everywhere.
“In this one ruling, the court has both affirmed the Ogiek’s right to live freely on their ancestral land, and proved to the continent that regional justice mechanisms work.
“But a ruling is not enough, it must be respected. The Kenyan government must now implement the ruling and let the Ogiek live freely on their ancestral land.”
The Ogiek, who live mostly in Kenya’s Mau and Mt Elgon forests, are a hunter-gatherer community. They have fought for a long time in the national courts, and now at the African Court, to live on their land of their ancestors, but the government has routinely subjected them to arbitrarily evictions citing the need to conserve the environment, claims the court rejected.
In response to today’s court ruling blocking the Kenyan government’s unilateral decision to shut Dadaab refugee camp, Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“Today is a historic day for more than a quarter of a million refugees who were at risk of being forcefully returned to Somalia, where they would have been at serious risk of human rights abuses. This ruling reaffirms Kenya’s constitutional and international legal obligation to protect people who seek safety from harm and persecution.
Stopping the imminent closure of Dadaab refugee camp is an essential first step in respecting and protecting refugee rights in Kenya. Now Kenya and the international community must work towards finding alternative solutions for refugees including local integration options.”
In his ruling, Justice JM Mativo said the government’s orders were discriminatory and amounted to collective punishment. He also described the orders as excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate.
The Kenyan government must halt its crackdown on media freedom and allow Jerome Starkey to return to the country, said nine human rights organizations today, two months after the British journalist was detained and deported.
The organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and PEN International, have sent a letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaissery, and other senior government officials, calling for Jerome Starkey to be allowed to return to Kenya to resume his work, and that the government publicly reaffirm its oft-expressed commitment to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
“It’s a travesty that Jerome Starkey, a well-respected international journalist was detained and deported under questionable circumstances and is now no longer able to carry out his work in Kenya. But this is just one of many cases of media harassment and intimidation of journalists carried out by the Kenyan authorities,” said Justus Nyang’aya, Amnesty International Kenya Country Director.
In response to today’s announcement by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaissery that plans to close down Dadaab refugee camp would be delayed by six months, Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“While we welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s pledge that repatriations will be carried out in a humane, dignified manner, the announcement is not a change in policy. Thousands of refugees remain at risk of forced repatriation to a war-torn country with and where they are at risk of death or injury in the ongoing conflict.”
“The Kenyan government must end its dogged determination to repatriate refugees against their will in contravention of international law and instead with donor support, embrace sustainable long-term solutions, including integration of the refugees into local communities. The international community must also share responsibility with Kenya by providing more resettlement places to the most vulnerable refugees.”
Just two weeks before the deadline given to close the Dadaab refugee camp, Kenyan government officials are deliberately coercing refugees to return to Somalia, where they risk being injured or killed in the ongoing armed conflict, Amnesty International said in a report released today.
The government announced in May that it would close the world’s largest refugee camp, which is home to more than 280,000 mostly Somali refugees, citing security, economic and environmental concerns, in addition to lack of support by the international community. Since then, government officials have made statements in the media and visited the camp, threatening people to leave before the closure slated for 30 November 2016.
“The refugees are caught between a rock and a hard place. Kenyan government officials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month or they will be forced to leave without any assistance,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
The High Court in Kenya will on Monday 7 November hear a petition filed by two civil society organizations challenging the government’s decision to close down Dadaab refugee camp and disband the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA).
Amnesty International is participating in the proceedings as an interested party and has filed submissions on Kenya’s obligations under international law to ensure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
The petition, filed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kituo Cha Sheria, seeks to have the government’s closure decisions declared unconstitutional.
“The closure of Dadaab would be a disaster for the tens of thousands of refugees still living there who have nowhere else to go. Their repatriation back to Somalia is not voluntary - they are being forced to return when the conditions that forced them to flee in the first place have not improved,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty International’s East Africa regional office.
The Kenyan government must set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate and bring to justice all those suspected of criminal responsibility for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, said 13 Kenyan and global human rights organizations today as they marked the International Day of the Disappeared.
Kenyan and global human rights organizations have documented more than 300 cases of individuals who have gone missing while in the hands of security agencies since 2009, some of whom have later been found killed.
“Enforced disappearances have become a widespread practice, and a dark stain on the fabric of law enforcement in Kenya that can only be sustainably addressed by bringing to account those suspected of responsibility through fair trials,” said Peter Kiama, Executive Director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU).
“But fair trials cannot take place without prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the myriad cases of disappearances and executions.”
For the first time ever, a refugee team is competing at the Olympic Games under the Olympic flag. 10 refugee athletes are acting as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bringing global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis, by taking part in the Olympic Games in Rio.
FilmAid, along with other key partners such as UNHCR and Amnesty International wanted to enable the refugee community in Kakuma, many of whom wouldn’t normally have the ability to watch the global event, to watch their team compete live with the rest of the world. Refugees now have a place as they support their team.
Responding to today’s High Court ruling that Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and two others were subject to enforced disappearance and later executed by police, Victor Odero, Amnesty International’s East Africa Campaigner said:
“The court’s determination is a watershed moment in the history of justice in Kenya as it sheds the spotlight on the common but under-reported scourge of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.”
“The ruling is a fitting tribute to Willie Kimani, Josphat Mwendwa and Joseph Muiruri, as well as hundreds of other Kenyans who have been executed or disappeared at the hands of the police, and a victory for everyone who protested and demanded justice for them.”
The court also ruled that Willie Kimani should be recognised as a champion of justice.
Bodies dumped in river after enforced disappearance
(Nairobi, July 4, 2016) - Kenyan authorities must urgently investigate the killing last week of three men, including a human rights lawyer, and ensure that those found responsible are held to account in fair trials, 34 Kenyan and international human rights organizations said today. Human rights activists will today hold demonstrations in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya today to protest the heinous killings.
The shocking abduction, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings of lawyer Willie Kimani, as well as his client and their taxi driver that day, whose bodies were recovered from a river 73 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, should be cause for alarm over the state of human rights and rule of law in Kenya, especially in the face of reports suggesting that police officers were involved.
Yesterday’s brutal crackdown by Kenyan police against protesters must be urgently and impartially investigated, said Amnesty International.
Police descended on a crowd of largely peaceful protesters hitting many of them with batons, lobbing tear gas at them and spraying them with water cannons. In one video widely shared on social media, three policemen were seen kicking and beating a protester after he had collapsed by the roadside. Some media reports say the individual later died of his injuries.
“The brutal beatings by police yesterday amount to arbitrary and abusive use of force, which is illegal under Kenyan, regional and international law,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.