Kenya: Human Rights Defenders under attack but continue to speak out against skipping the ICC

October 15, 2013

Yesterday, 15 October, the Kenyan police arrested seven members of Bunge la Mwananchi on suspicion of illegal assembly as they were protesting a tax increase on commodities. Amongst those arrested was human rights defender Ruth Mumbi. The protesters were beaten at the scene and detained for approximately four hours before being released without charge. Ruth Mumbi is a community activist, founder and current National Coordinator for Bunge la Wamama (The Women’s Parliament), a female branch of the Bunge la Mwananchi movement (The People’s Parliament).  Upon their release, the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) reportedly announced that, “in the aftermath of the Westgate attack, we don’t allow people to assemble”. Front Line Defenders has expressed serious concern at the arrest and severe beating of human rights defender Ruth Mumbi and her colleagues and at the breach of the right to peaceful assembly enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution.

Earlier this month, on 4 October, Human Rights Watch issued a special report on the rising threats against Human Rights Defenders under the title “Kenya: Rights Defenders Under Attack” in which Daniel Bekele, HRW’s Africa director, says: “The increasing threats and intimidation of human rights defenders, the meddling with witnesses, and the heinous killing of two prominent rights activists underscore the worsening environment for human rights defenders in Kenya. The government should make clear that it won’t tolerate intimidation and violence against those who speak their minds.” Harassment of people perceived to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, and the journalist Joshua arap Sang has been particularly acute. The three face charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence.

Kenyan human rights defenders have also been targeted. On September 20, the police reported that a gang calling itself Nyaribo Support Group threatened to burn down the home of Maina Kiai, the former chairman of the state funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). The threats came in response to erroneous reports on blogs that Kiai had traveled to The Hague to testify against Kenyatta. Kiai is now the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Dennis Itumbi, the president’s director of digital media and the diaspora, is among the bloggers who have singled out people such as Kiai on social media. In mid-March Itumbi posted on his personal website a chart of civil society leaders and opposition figures he described as the “evil society” for supporting the ICC. For more details see: Kenya: Rights Defenders Under Attack | Human Rights Watch.

And on 15 October this is confirmed by a groups of 30 Human rights defenders warning President Uhuru against skipping the ICC trials saying the consequences of the move are damaging. “We are also aware that there are calls and pressure from within and without the country for the president to skip the ICC trials; we wish to advise the president to ignore this misleading and malicious advices as its consequences could bring down the country” read a statement from the human rights activists. [In a two-day extraordinary summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU said the ICC is interfering with the reconciliation process.] via Kenya: Group Tells Uhuru Not to Snub ICC.

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One Response to “Kenya: Human Rights Defenders under attack but continue to speak out against skipping the ICC”

  1. […] two days in prison after leading a protest about the high death rates at a local maternity ward. []. The harassment continues Ruth says: “Telling me to stop, sending threat messages, sending […]

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