Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

Four young women human rights defenders speak out

September 21, 2017

Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed, says SARA VIDA COUMANS in Open Democracy of 15 September 2017, but around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities. These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them. (“We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”)


Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.

Madeline Wells.

Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved.

“As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me,” she said. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches.” Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth “face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimination, high suicide rates, and poor healthcare,” she added. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches – art, music and dance are equally powerful ways of speaking out, and social media has had a huge impact.”


Nancy Herz, student and author from Norway.

Nancy Herz.

Nancy Herz. Photo: Vincent Hansen. All rights reserved.

In 2016 Herz wrote an article entitled “We Are the Shameless Arab Women and Our Time Starts Now” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” subsequently started in Norway. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others,” she said. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others.” “I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too,” said Herz. “This is what fighting against injustice is about. By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger…it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”


Sandra Mwarania, youth activist from Kenya.

Sandra Mwarania.

Sandra Mwarania. Photo: Kenneth Kigunda / Amnesty International Kenya. All rights reserved.

Mwarania co-founded the Student Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy. “Young people are brilliant creatives, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, innovative communicators and active doers,” she said. “It is unfortunate that we are yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers who still perceive us as inexperienced and rowdy.” “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.” “As well as being well-informed on human rights issues, students and young people need the skills to address the pressing socio-political issues around them,” Mwarania added. “When young people are engaged at every level of the decision making process, the results can be amazing. We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”


Fabiola Arce, women’s rights defender from Peru.

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone).

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone) in #NiUnaMenos protest in Lima, Peru, 2016. Photo: Andrick Astonitas / Amnesty International Peru.

Arce has campaigned to pressure her government to investigate cases of forced sterilisation of women in the 1990s. “This serious human rights violation mostly targeted indigenous women, and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering,” she said. “Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me.” “We are determined not to let the injustices of the past go unaccounted for. Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me to work towards shaping a different future.”

Amnesty International’s BRAVE campaign works with young women human rights defenders like these and fights for their recognition and protection. Find out more.

Source: “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”: young women human rights defenders speak out | openDemocracy

Even Maina Kiai cannot escape harassment in Kenya

August 22, 2017

There are certainly worse violations to which human rights defenders are submitted than a short detention at the airport, but this case concerns Maina Kiai, who is former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly. Kiai, also Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) board member.  On 20 August 2017 he was stopped from catching his flight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the US. This was after immigration officers demanded that he gets travel clearance before they could stamp his passport. He was held for about two hours before but was allowed to travel after Director of Immigration Major-General Gordon Kihalangwa (Rtd) intervened. Kihalangwa told the Star that Kiai was not detained but was taken through routine security checks that every traveler is subjected to. “Kiai was not restricted. It was a normal security check and not meant to demean him or anyone.”

That notoriety has protective value can be seen from what he added: “Kiai is a renown personality. He is even known to me. I spoke to him personally before he traveled“.  [for more on Maina Kiai: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maina-kiai/]

Still, human rights defenders such as  Njonjo Mue termed the incident “disturbing and an attempt by the state to manage its citizens with a fist”“We are dealing with a regime determined to silence all independent voices, its dictatorship and we back to 1990s”Khelef Khalifa of Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) said it was not a coincidence but a deliberate attempt to silence all those voices that speak to power.

Last week, there were attempts by the state to shut down the NGOs KHRC and AfriCOG in what government termed as failure to comply with statutory obligations. The events climaxed by failed raid on AfriCOG offices. On 16 August 2017 this is what Front Line Defenders had to say about this:

Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the African Centre for Open Governance’s offices.  On 14 and 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board notified the Kenya Human Rights Commission- KHRC and the African Centre for Open Governance- AfriCOG that the Board would be cancelling their registration. The NGO Co-Ordination Board also called for the freezing of their accounts and the arrest of the Board of Directors and members of AfriCOG ……

On 16 August 2017, Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the AfriCOG offices, however, the search was called off in order to investigate complaints by the organisation. On 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board sent a letter to the Director of Criminal Investigations stating that AfriCOG will be shut down and calling for the arrests of its directors and members. The NGO Co-Ordination Board has alleged that AfriCOG is not a registered organisation under the NGO Co-Ordination Act 1990 as required by law. The letter, in which AfriCOG and the Central Bank of Kenya were copied, also called for the freezing of accounts in the name of  AfriCOG.

On 14 August 2017, the Kenya Human Rights Commission received a letter from the NGO Co-Ordination Board de-registering the NGO. In the letter, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board also asked the Central Bank of Kenya, who was copied in the correspondence, to freeze any accounts in the name of KHRC. The allegations by the Board include that the NGO has illegal bank accounts, that it illegally employs expatriates and that it is concealing illegal remuneration of board members. 

These allegations are similar to those made by the NGO Co-Ordination Board about the KHRC in 2015 when the Board issued a press statement announcing that it had initiated the de-registration process for a number of NGOs, including the KHRC. In Kenya Human Rights Commission v Non-Governmental Organisations Co-Ordination Board [2016] eKLR, Judge Onguto found that the NGO Co-Ordination Board had violated Article 37 of the Constitution by not giving the KHRC a hearing before deciding to cancel its registration certificate and freeze its bank accounts.

Source: Rights defenders condemn Maina Kiai detention, urges him to sue | The Star, Kenya

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001251969/maina-kiai-briefly-stopped-at-jkia-as-officials-demand-clearance-to-travel

http://freeassembly.net/news/thank-you-from-kiai

KIOS Foundation in Finland publishes video interviews with four human rights defenders from Asia and Africa

January 19, 2017

KIOS is perhaps not the best-known human rights foundation in the world but that is surely mostly due to the fact that it operates from a small base: Finland. KIOS was founded by 11 Finnish human rights and development NGOs. The representatives of the founding NGOs form the Board of KIOS. In Finland, KIOS raises awareness on the significance of human rights and the work of human rights defenders in developing countries. It also advocates for the development of good practices in Finnish foreign and development policy in support ofHRDs. KIOS focuses its external support on 3 countries in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) and 3 in South Asia (Nepal, Sri Lanka and to Tibetan civil society organizations in exile). Some long-term partner organizations of KIOS are also supported in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Ulla Anttila is the Executive Director.

Ulla Anttila

On 17 December 2016 KIOS published four video links of interviews with human rights defenders from Asia and Africa (video links), available on You Tube:

Read the rest of this entry »

Killed Kenyan lawyer, Willie Kimani, named Jurist of the Year 2016

December 12, 2016

 

willie-kimani-killed-hrd-in-kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Kimani, the Kenyan human rights lawyer who was murdered this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/03/body-of-disappeared-human-rights-lawyer-kimani-client-found-kenya-impunity/], was honoured with an award for his bravery in defending the poor and oppressed in Kenya. While receiving the award, Kimani’s widow Hannah Kimani said she had never imagined that his standing up for justice would eventually amount to his death. “No amount of words can explain who Willy was. He was one of a kind… with this award, it shows that his work was not in vain,” she said.
Executive Director Samwel Mohochi of the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists said “We give it to him as recognition for the ultimate price he paid in performing his work as human rights defender and as a reminder to the risks that face all other human rights defenders”…“This will renew our commitment to all human rights defenders. It is an appreciation of the work he did”.

Source: Slain lawyer Willie Kimani honoured with yearly title

https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2016/12/murdered-lawyer-willie-kimani-named-jurist-of-the-year/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-willie-kimani

Bodies of disappeared human rights lawyer Kimani and his client found in Kenya

July 3, 2016

A lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josphat Mwenda and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, were last seen returning from a traffic court hearing at Mavoko Law Courts on 23 June 2016. Many feared that they were abducted. Now, on 1 July 2016 their bodies have been found. Kimani was a lawyer with NGO International Justice Mission in Kenya. Kimani had been representing Mwenda in a case he had brought against the police after he was shot by them during a traffic stop.

Kenyan lawyers held a protest http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000207020/lawyers-stage-protest-outside-ig-boinnet-s-office-over-missing-lawyer-client-and-taxi-driver-civil-societies-condemn-disappearance on 30 June, and petitioned the police inspector general for information regarding the men’s whereabouts.

We are deeply saddened by reports of the murders of Kimani, his client, and his taxi driver, and offer our condolences to their families and colleagues who continue to incur great risk fighting for justice and accountability,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “It’s vital for the future of Kenya that its human rights lawyers are able to operate without fear of violence, and that the killers be swiftly brought to justice.”

Police should not hesitate to interrogate and arrest their own officers when there is cause,” said Namwaya of HRW. “This case stands as a clear threat to the legal profession and all those who push for police accountability in Kenya.”

http://www.hrw.org/africa/kenya

[http://www.knchr.org/Portals/0/PressStatements/Joint%20Press%20Release%20-Disappearance%20of%20Willie%20Kimani%20et%20al.pdf]

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-demands-justice-murder-human-rights-lawyer-kenya

Cartoonists Gado (Kenya) and Zunar (Malaysia) get 2016 Cartooning for Peace Prize

May 4, 2016

evenement-prix-international-presse-0

Today – in order to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day on the 3rd of May – it was announced that the 2016 International Editorial Cartoons Prize is awarded to the Kenyan caricaturist, Gado, and the Malaysian cartoonist, Lunar. Some of their cartoons are shown below:

Gado and Zunar remind us how fragile this liberty remains in Africa and in Asia as well as in other regions of the world. Through their commitment towards open and transparent societies, Gado and Zunar, who have received threats in their countries of origin and can no longer practice their profession, confront us with our responsibility to preserve freedom of expression and act in order to support the combat of those who cannot express themselves through their art”, declared Mr Kofi Annan, he Honorary President of the Swiss Foundation.

The cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, jury member, added: “For having had the courage to draw the king naked, Gado and Zunar are faced with a power machine that seeks to silence them. What this Prize seeks to do is just the opposite: to amplify their voices, which are those of democracy and justice.

This prize, awarded every two years in Geneva, rewards a cartoonist for his/her courage, talent and commitment to the values of peace, tolerance as well as for his/her fight for freedom of expression. The event goes with an exhibition presented along the quai Wilson in Geneva until June 4th, 2016. For more information, click here!

For 2014 event see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/cartooning-for-peace-award-handed-over-by-kofi-annan-in-geneva/

For the biographies: Gado and Zunar.

 

  • Gado (Kenya)
     Gado (Kenya)
  • Gado (Kenya)
    Gado (Kenya)
  • Gado (Kenya)
    Gado (Kenya)
  • Gado (Kenya)
     Gado (Kenya)
  • Zunar (Malaysia)
     Zunar (Malaysia)
  • Zunar (Malaysia)
    Zunar (Malaysia)
  • Zunar (Malaysia)
     Zunar (Malaysia)
  • Zunar (Malaysia)
     Zunar (Malaysia)

 

Source: Cartoonists Gado (Kenya) and Zunar (Malaysia), recipients of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Prize – Cartooning for Peace

Killing of land rights defender John Waweru in Nairobi decried

April 13, 2016

The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) and DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) expressed their outrage over the killing of human rights defender John Waweru on Monday 11 April 2016 in Zimmerman, Nairobi. John Waweru was the director of Githunguri Constituency Ranching Company and a committed human rights defender working towards the promotion and protection of economic and social rights. He was at the forefront of advocacy against forced evictions of individuals residing on contested land in Kiambu County.

The killing of John Waweru comes cynically shortly after the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the protection of human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights in March 2016 [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/human-rights-council-adoption-landmark-resolution-protection-defenders-economic-social-cultural-rights/]

The NCHRD-K and DefendDefenders recall other cases against human rights defenders in Kenya, such as:

Joel Ogada, a human rights defender in Kilifi County who has been a leading advocate for land rights against the neighbouring Salt farms has faced three criminal charges, one of which resulted in him being sentenced to two years in prison after appeal. He was released in September 2015 and barely six months after his release, in March 2016, he was rearrested and charged with attempting to kill.

In 2013, Hassan Guyo, the Programme Director for Strategies for Northern Development (SND), an organisation that promotes human rights for women and children and works on refugee and human trafficking issues in Moyale was killed by security forces.

In 2009, HRDs Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu of Oscar Foundation were shot dead in Nairobi.

In all of these matters, no one has been held to account and police investigations have been inconclusive.

For more information, contact Hassan Shire  Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project: executiveATdefenddefenders.org.

www.defenddefenders.org

Classic case of judicial harassment – this time Joel Ogata in Kenya

March 16, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports on the use of fabricated charges against human rights defender Joel Ogata in Kenya. The story serves as a perfect illustration of how extractive industries (or the States on their behalf) keep human rights defenders tied up in court proceedings through judicial harassment and even manage to get them detained. Read the rest of this entry »

What is Burundi doing in the UN Human Rights Council?

February 8, 2016

Burundi is still one of the basket cases in Africa and since my lats post nothing has improved [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/].  The Special Session of the Human Rights Council in December 2015 mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to put together an expert mission to Burundi, to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Council and the Burundian government on ways of ending serious human rights violations. But the follow-up is below par: Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defender Khalef Khalifa from Kenya in the spotlight

July 9, 2015

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped in its July 2015 Newsletter puts the spotlight on Khalef Khalifa, Executive Director of the NGO MUHURI in Kenya.

 

On 8 April 2015, the official Gazette notice listed 85 companies and organisations, including MUHURI and Haki Africa, as suspected of having links to terrorism and linking them as specified entities. On 20 and 21 April, the police raided the offices of both organizations, disabling their servers, carrying away hard disks and documents, allegedly to determine whether they had been involved in tax evasion. On 28 May, the Non-Governmental Organisations’ Coordination Board announced through the media that they had de-registered the organizations. On 12 June the court dismissed all charges against MUHURI and Haki Africa on the basis that there was no evidence against them.

Khalef Khalifa (KK): As you know, on the 12th June was a good day for us as both MUHURI and Haki Africa, were entirely vindicated in court. The judge dismissed all the charges against us and said that there was absolutely no evidence to link us to terrorism in any form and specifically forbade the police or even the Minister to make any such reference in the future. However the outstanding difficulty is that he refused to unfreeze our bank accounts on the basis that we had failed to include the Central Bank in our case against the state. They have now agreed to join our case calling for the accounts to be freed but we have to wait for another hearing before the judge makes his ruling and we can begin getting back to normal.

FLD: Given the various lines of attack that were opened against MUHURI it seems as though the government was out to get you?

KK: ...we were targeted on three fronts: by the police, the Revenue Commissioners and by the NGO Board. So while the government accused us of terrorism, the Revenue Commissioners descended on our office and took away all out financial documentation to look for evidence of tax avoidance and the NGO Board lodged a complaint that we had not kept them properly informed of our activities, and in particular that we had not informed them of new appointments to our board, as required by the NGO Law. In the final verdict, while the judge said there was no evidence of involvement in terrorism, both the Revenue Commissioners and the NGO Board had to concede that we were 100% compliant with the regulations. The only thing the NGO Board could trip us up on was that while we had notified the NGO Board of the new appointments, we had not used the appropriate, and newly introduced, form. What is interesting is that in the early stages of the case the government was totally focused on pursuing a case on the basis of terrorism, but they quite quickly changed tack and started looking for any small technical failures they could find to try and make a case against us. But they failed because we have always operated in an entirely open and transparent way.

KK: The real reason for their animus against MUHURI is that we are critical of the police and have investigated their involvement in extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances. There have been at least 52 such killings and disappearances in the Mombasa region in the last two years. The police claim to be fighting terror but in fact terror is a more accurate description of the way the police themselves work. In one incident 8 people were shot dead in a church. The police claimed that it was an attack by Al Shabaab. However when the perpetrators were arrested it was clear that they were not Muslims and in fact had no affiliation to any particular group. The police then hid the names and tried to maintain the fiction of an Al Shabaab attack.

FLD: Will the work of MUHURI get back to normal now?

KK: ...As soon as the accounts are unfrozen we will continue out work as normal. For us it is clear that the government wants to intimidate and frighten MUHURI but we will not be intimidated – we will not give up.

for full interview see: HRD Spotlight: Khalef Khalifa, Kenya | Front Line Defenders.

The more general backdrop can be found in earlier Front Line messages, the 5 June appeal by the Observatory [http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/kenya/2015/06/d23190/] and the statements made by NGOs on 26 June 2015 at the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the report of the Universal Periodic Review [UPR] of Kenya:

– International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) : Kenya should create an enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders – including repealing restrictions on NGO access to foreign funding and amending or repealing the Information Communication Amendment Bill and Media Council Bill. The statement also emphasised the risks faced by LGBTI people and organisations in Kenya as a result of the criminalisation of same-sex conduct. ‘It is crucial that the voices of human rights defenders are safeguarded and encouraged. This assists to create a vibrant, independent and diverse civil society which is essential to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law’ said Michael Ineichen of ISHR.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/kenya-safeguard-and-encourage-essential-voices-human-rights-defenders

AllAfrica.com reports on Human Rights Watch comments: “We note Kenya’s acceptance of some important recommendations such as commitments to investigate torture and extrajudicial killings, including the killing of activist Hassan Guyo, and to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court. But we remain concerned that there has been little tangible progress in many key areas. The ongoing abuses and recent threats to civil society illustrate a lack of commitment to implement these recommendations.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201506260835.html