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Kenya: DefendDefenders submits joint report to the 35th Session of the UPR Working Group

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all United Nations Member States.

The process provides for the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and national human rights institutions (NHRIs). Civil society actors and NHRIs can submit information which can be added to the “other stakeholders” report to be considered during the review.

On 18 July 2019, for the 35th Session of the UPR Working Group, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) and National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K) submitted a joint report for Kenya’s review.

Recommendations to the government of Kenya

  • DefendDefenders and NCHRD-K call on the Government of Kenya to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for HRDs including civil society, in accordance with the rights enshrined in the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6, 27/5, and 27/31.
  • In line with Kenya’s standing invitation to the Human Rights Council’s special procedure mandate-holders to visit the country, swiftly set a date for the visits of the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of opinion and expression, the latter two having been accepted in principle, in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • The government should guarantee freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression, and the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference.

    In the light of this, the following specific recommendations are made:

Regarding freedom of association 

  • Immediately implement the Public Order Benefits Organisations Act (2013);
  • Immediately reinstate all CSOs that have been arbitrarily deregistered; and
  • End the practice of unwarranted raids on CSOs and unjustifiable disruptions of their activities. Any search operations should be authorised by a court order, in accordance with due process.

Regarding protection of human rights defenders

  • Provide civil society members, HRDs, and journalists with a safe and enablingenvironment in which to carry out their work free from hindrance and insecurity. Conduct impartial, thorough, swift, effective, and transparent investigations into all cases of attacks,harassment, and intimidation, and bring the perpetratorsto justice in fair trials;
  • Adopt a specific law on the protectionof HRDs, in accordance with Council resolution 27/31 of the Human Rights Council; and
  • Recognisethe important contributions ofHRDs and refrain from criminalising their work.

 Regarding freedom of expression and access to information

  • Respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that censorship is limited to exceptional cases, in line with the limitations provided under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR; and
  • Cease the targeting and harassment of journalists and other critical voices in the country and publicly desist from any negative discourse on civil society, HRDs, and journalists.

Regarding freedom of peaceful assembly

  • Adopt best practices on the freedom of peaceful assembly set out by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in his 2012 annual report, which calls for procedures in which there is simple notification of assemblies being held, rather than explicit permission being needed to assemble;
  • Review the cases of all peopledetained for exercising their right tofreedom of peaceful assembly in order to prevent further harassment;
  • Engage in a meaningful and inclusive national dialogue with all stakeholders including civil society, in the amendment of the Public Order Act;
  • Review and update existing human rights training for police and security forces to foster a more consistent application of international human rights standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, and instruct law enforcement and security agents to cease the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators; and
  • Publicly condemn the use of excessive and brutal force by security forces to disperse protests, launch an effective investigation into such instances, and bring the perpetrators of abuses to justice in fair trials.