Star (Kenya)

May. 04, 2017, 12:15 am

A member of the civil society cries during a protest dubbed "Stop extrajudicial killings" on the killing of human rights lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client and their driver in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. REUTERS
A member of the civil society cries during a protest dubbed “Stop extrajudicial killings” on the killing of human rights lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client and their driver in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. REUTERS

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has made human rights defenders work unbearable, despite a robust Constitution, an international fact-finding mission report indicates.

The report compiled in October last year shows the Jubilee administration has shown open hostility towards human rights defenders and has been undermining the freedom of association and peaceful assembly, through judicial and administrative harassment and restrictive legislation.

Severe crackdown and the progressive shrinking of the civil society space experienced by human rights defenders and a worrying pattern of extrajudicial killings and police violence against activists, triggered the Observatory for Protection of Human Rights Defenders to conduct the fact-finding mission in Kenya.

The report called 2017 Elections: Broken Promises Put Human Rights Defenders At Risk, shows that human rights defenders are harassed by police in their attempt to hold public officials to account.

“We have seen anti-corruption crusaders charged and persecuted. We have seen circulars being issued against the civil society. This tells a story of regression creeping back,” International Commission for Jurist executive director Samwel Mohochi said.

IMLU executive director Peter Kiama said despite having institutions to safeguard rights and freedom, the government uses prohibitive laws to target vocal human rights activist.

George Kegoro from the Kenya Human Rights Commission said since 2013, there has been an estranged relations between the state and the civil society.

The report says increasing patterns of criminalisation and intimidation of human rights defenders through trumped-up charges, episodes of frequent arrests and long trials represent a serious concern. “It’s fundamental that authorities, especially in view of the upcoming elections, publicly recognise the essential role played by human rights defenders in every democracy as a watchdogs of the rule of law and guarantee their protection,” the report recommends.