Tag - East Africa ( 6 )

News | UN experts urge Kenya to end crackdown on rights groups to ensure fair elections

Feb 14 2017

GENEVA – Three United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government of Kenya to cease its systematic crackdown on civil society groups, which has intensified in the lead-up to national elections scheduled in August. “We are extremely alarmed at the increasing number of attacks on civil society as the elections draw closer,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. “It appears that there is a systematic and deliberate pattern to crack down on civil society groups which challenge governmental policies, educate voters, investigate human rights abuses and uncover corruption. These issues are extremely important in a democracy, and attempting to shut down the debate taking place in the civic space threatens to irreparably taint the legitimacy of the upcoming elections,” they added.* The experts’ call comes just a month after the Interior Ministry called for the closure of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deemed to be ‘not properly licensed’. A Government circular alleged the groups had been involved in ‘nefarious activities’ and claimed they posed a serious threat to national security including money... Continue reading →

News | UN experts criticize Kenya police for excessive use of force against peaceful protesters

Nov 10 2016

GENEVA – A group of UN human rights experts* has condemned a violent clampdown on a peaceful protest in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, while urging the authorities to investigate claims of excessive use of force and arbitrary arrest – both against demonstrators and journalists – and to hold all perpetrators accountable. The demonstrators were protesting against alleged government corruption when police used teargas and batons to disperse them. A number of people are reported to have been injured or detained during the incident on 3 November. “Interference with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is inexcusable at any time, but it is especially repugnant when demonstrators are calling for government accountability,” the experts said. “Protesters may sometimes raise uncomfortable truths, but holding people in power to account is a central function of peaceful assemblies in a democracy.” The experts also expressed alarm at the timing of the crackdown, less than a year before Kenyans elect a new president in August 2017. They said creating an environment where opinions could be expressed peacefully was key to avoiding a repeat of the wave of violence which followed the disputed presidential poll in 2007. “Beating protesters does not make their grudges go away. Rather, it... Continue reading →

News | “High time to end police impunity” – UN experts raise alarm at on-going pattern of extrajudicial killings in Kenya

Jul 28 2016

GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts, including Maina Kiai, today expressed deep concern about the on-going pattern of extrajudicial executions in Kenya. They urged the Government to put an end to police violence and ensure accountability for the perpetrators. The experts’ call comes as four police officers are charged with the murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and their driver, Joseph Muiruri, in the latest high-profile case in a long list of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Kenya. “The recent murder of a well-known lawyer and human rights defender is having a dramatic and detrimental impact on civil society, especially on those active in the field of human rights,” the experts noted. “It is urgent for the Government of Kenya to address the apparent structural and systemic motives behind police brutality.” The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights documented a pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations which include extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, as well as arbitrary arrests, extortion, arbitrary detention and torture, in a 2015 preliminary report about alleged human rights violations by police and other security agencies in relation to counter-terrorism... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: UN expert calls for protection of all rights defenders after attempted killing of top activist

Aug 07 2015

GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, today urged the Government of Burundi to protect all rights activists after this week’s brutal attack and assassination attempt on Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, one of the country’s top rights defenders. His call was endorsed by Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai. “The attempted killing of such a highly respected activist as Mr. Mbonimpa sends a very chilling message to all members of civil society and also the entire population,” Mr. Forst warned. “During this period of turmoil and insecurity in the country, I am gravely concerned for the safety of all persons advocating for human rights in Burundi and call for an immediate end to violence.” “The Burundian authorities should make it clear that such heinous attacks will not be tolerated and do their utmost to protect human rights defenders from future attacks,” he stressed. “I call for immediate protection to be provided to Mr. Mbonimpa during his recovery in hospital. I also urge that the attack is subject to an independent and impartial investigation so that perpetrators are brought to justice with due regard to fair trial standards.” As President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Incarcerated Persons... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: UN experts call for determined Security Council action to prevent mass violence in the Great Lakes region

Jul 16 2015

GENEVA - A group of United Nations human rights experts, including Maina Kiai, today urged the Security Council to take immediate action to prevent Burundi from sliding back into violent conflict ahead of presidential elections, a crisis which will not leave the other countries in the region, including Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, unaffected. Thus far, 145,000 persons have fled to neighbouring countries in fear for their lives. “The world is witnessing an escalating pattern of politically motivated violence in Burundi, enabled by the country’s decades-long tradition of impunity,” the experts warned. “The international community must not simply stand by and wait for mass atrocities to unfold, thereby risking a major conflict of regional proportions before it finally decides to act,” the Special Rapporteurs added, pointing to repeated cycles of mass violations that Burundi and the Great Lakes region have witnessed in recent history. The situation in Burundi has already involved serious human rights violations. “It is accumulating the well-known and visible marks of a society which previously suffered divisions leading to grave violence. This can escalate into major conflict through the use of outright repression against, and intimidation of, the population at large, the... Continue reading →

News | Kiai writes for openGlobalRights – ‘In Kenya, averting a move to strangle civil society with the financial noose’

Dec 18 2013

A piece by Maina Kiai has been featured in openGlobalRights, a multi-lingual ezine that covers global human rights. In the article, Kiai discusses legislation introduced in Kenya that would have capped foreign funding to NGOs. The law looked to be a death-knell for a vibrant civil society sector that has long been a shining example for the region. Luckily, after sustained local and international pressure, the legislation was narrowly defeated in the National Assembly in December. Kenya is not out of the woods yet - the legislation may re-emerge next year. But Kiai argues that its experiences could be instructive for countries where civil society faces similar threats. Click here for a link to the piece. Update Jan. 13, 2014: The article is also now available in French.... Continue reading →