Kenya - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF KENYA

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Head of state and government: Mwai Kibaki
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
International Criminal Court: ratified

The government intensified its intimidation and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders. Impunity for abuses by police was reinforced as the authorities failed to investigate allegations of police brutality. Violence against women and girls, including rape and domestic violence, remained a serious concern, although a new law was passed outlawing sexual offences.

Background

The government of Mwai Kibaki faced widespread criticism over the involvement of several senior ministers in two corruption scandals. The Vice-President and two cabinet members were among 30 people summoned by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) in connection with the Anglo Leasing scandal, in which large sums of government money were paid for equipment that was never provided. However, the Attorney General, Amos Wako, decided not to prosecute the 15 suspects indicted by the KACC.

The report of an inquiry into the Goldenberg scandal, which involved the loss of $1 billion in false gold and diamond exports in the 1990s, was published in February. It recommended corruption charges against businessman Kamlesh Patni, education minister George Saitoti, former President Daniel Arap Moi and several others. In March five people, including Kamlesh Patni, were charged. In August a panel of three High Court judges ruled that George Saitoti, who had resigned, had no case to answer.

Attacks on media freedom

There was increased intimidation and harassment of media workers and journalists by the authorities.

• In March, armed police, acting on government orders, raided the offices and presses of the Standard group, a leading media company, and the studios of KTN television. They set fire to the 2 March edition of the Standard, damaged equipment at both sites and confiscated computers. The raid provoked widespread protests both nationally and internationally. Three Standard journalists had been arrested before the raid and charged with producing "alarming" articles for reporting that the President had held secret talks with a political opponent. The Standard group filed a complaint against the Internal Security Minister and the Police Commissioner in connection with the raid, and a Parliamentary Committee held hearings to investigate it. In September the charges against the three journalists were dropped.

• Clifford Derrick Otieno, who filed a private prosecution alleging assault by First Lady Lucy Kibaki, the wife of President Kibaki, in May 2005, was repeatedly threatened and harassed. He was forced to leave the country in January, but his family continued to be threatened. His case against Lucy Kibaki was terminated by the Chief Magistrate. In November, following repeated postponements, the Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal challenging the termination.

• In May, two journalists working for the Citizen television channel were reportedly assaulted by police after they had attempted to photograph officers allegedly trying to extract bribes.

A draft bill - the Media Council of Kenya Bill 2006 - proposed a statutory media council in place of the existing voluntary council. The bill was criticized on the grounds that it proposed imposing restrictions on the work of journalists through an annual licensing system, allowed for political interference through the composition of its appointments board, and limited the right of appeal against the proposed council's decisions. By the end of 2006 the bill had not been passed by parliament.

Harassment of human rights defenders

The government sought to undermine and obstruct the work of human rights defenders. Non-governmental organizations accused the government of using the KACC and the Kenya Revenue Authority to intimidate its critics.

• In September, the Chairman of the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, Maina Kiai, was summoned by the KACC for an investigation into allegations of abuse of office. The allegations against Maina Kiai, an outspoken critic of the government, included issues related to his relocation allowance and the manner in which auditors were selected. Forty civil society organizations came to his defence, stating that the investigation was politically motivated and part of a wider plan by the government to harass and intimidate human rights defenders.

Impunity

The authorities failed to investigate allegations of human rights violations by police, including reports of torture and unlawful killings. Provincial Commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan reportedly issued "shoot-to-kill" orders to police in Nakuru district in October, following a spate of ethnic clashes.

• Despite a request for information by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights Defenders, there was no news of an investigation into allegations of ill-treatment made by Ojiayo Samson and Mithika Mwenda, both human rights activists. The two men were beaten by police officers in July 2005 after being arrested during a demonstration and continued to face criminal charges.

• There was still no investigation into the deaths of Paul Limera, aged 14, Hillary Ochieng, aged 17, Vincent Otieno, aged 15, George Ogada and Paul Mwela, who were shot by police officers during a demonstration in 2005.

In October the Justice Minister, Martha Karua, announced the creation of a new body to receive public complaints about police excesses and hold the police accountable.

• A group of former Mau Mau insurgents launched a suit against the UK government in October, seeking compensation for human rights abuses including rape, beatings and other torture committed during the rebellion for independence in the 1950s. According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, tens of thousands of people were tortured by the British authorities at the time.

Violence against women and girls

Women continued to face widespread violence, and violence against girls reportedly increased. Most sexual violence against girls was reportedly committed by family members or close family friends.

• In March, 10 schoolgirls were raped during a demonstration in the town of Nyeri. Five local boys were later arrested, but no prosecution was reported.

The government passed the Sexual Offences Act 2006 in May. The new act imposed minimum sentences for different crimes; defined rape, defilement and other sexual offences; and proscribed the use of previous sexual experience or conduct as evidence against the victim. However, the act did not recognize marital rape, provided a restrictive definition of rape and did not criminalize forced female genital mutilation.

Forced evictions

Tens of thousands of residents were forcibly evicted from forest areas and informal settlements. Evictions were characterized by violence, the destruction of houses and property, and inadequate resettlement and compensation provisions. Notice was sometimes, but not always, given.

The government pledged to develop national guidelines on evictions, and in May set up an inter-ministerial task force to finalize them, but no draft had been issued by the end of the year.

• In March, 3,000 families were evicted from Kipkurere Forest in the Rift Valley. Settlements were burned, and property and food stocks destroyed.

• In June, 8,000 people were evicted from Emborut Forest, in the Rift Valley. Houses, schools and churches were burned down.

• More than 600 families were left without shelter after Komora slum in Nairobi was destroyed in September to make way for a private development. Residents complained that they had nowhere to go, that they had been given only 10 minutes to clear their homes, and that the iron sheets they had used for their dwellings were destroyed.

Protection of refugees and asylum-seekers

Tens of thousands of new Somali refugees crossed the border into Kenya, joining the 160,000 refugees - mostly from Somalia - already living in camps around the town of Dadaab in the east of the country. By late October, an estimated 34,000 had arrived, fleeing increased violence in southern and central Somalia.

At Kakuma camp, near the Sudanese border, there were reports of rising tensions between refugees and members of the local Turkana ethnic group. Four people were killed in clashes and attacks on the camp in August. Refugees who had been repatriated to southern Sudan returned to Kakuma camp in May, reportedly because of insecurity in southern Sudan.

Kenya, Rwanda and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, signed an agreement in March on the voluntary return of about 3,000 Rwandan refugees.

Death penalty

Despite the government's commitment to abolishing the death penalty, expressed to the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2005, there were no significant movements in that direction in 2006. Death sentences continued to be imposed; however, no executions have been carried out since 1986.

AI country reports/visits

Statement

• Kenya: A Joint Appeal to African Ministers on urban housing (AI Index: AFR 32/002/2006)

Visit

An AI delegation visited Kenya in September/October.