KENYA: Human rights
violations persist - lawyers
NAIROBI, 2 February (IRIN) - Kenyan lawyers said on Tuesday that
human rights violations had continued, despite the government's
earlier pledges that it would strive to entrench respect for civil
"As part of its election platform the new government promised
to eliminate violations of human rights, which the previous
government had not managed to bring under control," the Law
Society of Kenya (LSK) said in its 2004 human rights report.
"Despite this policy commitment, cases of human rights
violations have continued."
The Kenyan government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, denied the charge,
saying the country was now more democratic than it had been two
years ago, and the government was introducing reforms in the
police force to make it more aware of human rights issues.
"Mechanisms have been put in place for people to launch
complaints whenever their rights are abused," Mutua told IRIN
on Wednesday. "We have opened up democratic space; we are
reforming the police."
The LSK noted that Kenya had made some progress in 2003, when it
set up the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, and parliament
passed the Children's Act, designed to ensure the protection of
minors, as well as the Disability Act, which outlaws
discrimination on the grounds of
"We have made progress, but we are not yet in the promised
land," said Patrick Kiage, a member of the LSK executive
council, during the launch of the report.
The LSK criticised the government for failing to curb the frequent
extrajudicial killings and torture of suspects by the police.
"The gunning down of suspects by the police continues to be
the norm," it noted. "This practice is the result of the
police force's disregard and disrespect of the sanctity of human
life, and legal provisions that give the police uncontrolled
power, which they abuse."
According to the report, Kenya had "shown hesitation" in
committing itself to the abolition of the death penalty, although
capital punishment was last carried out in 1987. "This means
that a de facto moratorium [on legal execution] has been in force
in the country for 17 years," the Society remarked.
In February 2003 the hanging of several condemned prisoners was
suspended, and 281 convicts who had been on death row for a long
time were released. The president also commuted the death
sentences of 195 others to life terms but, despite these decisions,
the courts have continued to impose capital punishment.
"Living with the constant threat of execution has been viewed
as constituting a cruel and degrading treatment and contrary to
the right to life, and therefore a violation of human
rights," LSK said in its report.
The Kenyan penal code provides for the death penalty for those
convicted of murder and violent robbery. Delegates to a
constitutional review conference in 2004 voted to retain capital
punishment for murder, and said it should also be applied to
criminals found guilty of raping children.
"We think that it is high time a debate on the idea of the
death penalty was given another chance in Kenya," the LSK
The society urged the government to enact domestic legislation
that would make all international human rights treaties ratified
by Kenya enforceable in local courts.
Other common human rights violations in Kenya, according to the
LSK, include torture, ill treatment of prisoners, curtailment of
the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, exploitation of
workers by employers and harassment of poor people engaging in
informal economic activities.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Source: IRIN http://www.irinnews.org/