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Kenya: Prisoner of conscience / health concern: Njehu Gatabaki

, رقم الوثيقة: AFR 32/007/1996

Njehu Gatabaki, an editor and opposition member of parliament, currently on bail and in hiding, is due to appear in court in Nairobi on 10 June 1996. The police are likely to rearrest him and he may face imprisonment. If this happens, AI would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his non-violent criticism of the government. Moreover, given his poor state of health, his life would be put at risk by the appalling conditions in Kenyan prisons.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 32/07/96
EXTRA 85/96 Prisoner of conscience / Health concern 7 June 1996
KENYANjehu GATABAKI, aged in his 50s, opposition member of parliament, editor
Parliamentarian Njehu Gatabaki, currently on bail and in hiding, is due to
appear in court in Nairobi on 10 June 1996. The police are likely to take
this opportunity to rearrest him and he may face imprisonment. If this happens,
Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience,
detained for his non-violent criticism of the government. Moreover the
organization fears that if imprisoned, given his poor state of health, his
life would be put at risk by the appalling conditions in Kenyan prisons.
Njehu Gatabaki, who is also editor of the monthly magazine Finance, was arrested
on 14 May 1996 by at least 20 police officers and taken to the headquarters
of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Nairobi and then to Parklands
Police Station. He made a statement denying accusations by the police that
he was involved in the murder of Police Superintendent Bernard Kahumbi, a
policeman who was murdered in May 1995 shortly after he failed to arrest Njehu
Gatabaki, who had gone into hiding. Two men were arrested in June 1995 in
connection with the murder of Police Superintendent Kahumbi and the case against
them is continuing. Committal proceedings are currently underway in the
magistrates court and Njehu Gatabaki had not until May 1996 been mentioned
in any statements by the two men, including their depositions. It has just
been learned that one of the defendants has now alleged that Njehu Gatabaki
was involved in the May 1995 murder. It is feared that this allegation may
have been made as a result of torture.
Njehu Gatabaki was released on bail on 22 May. Officers from the CID were
waiting to rearrest him as he left the court but with the help of opposition
MPs he evaded arrest. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that he
will be detained for up to 14 days and that if charged with murder, which is
non-bailable in Kenya, he will face lengthy detention, prior to a trial which
may not be fair.
Njehu Gatabaki is in poor health and suffers from hypertension. He was held
for several nights after his arrest at Railway Police Station in a solitary
cell, without bedding and infested with mosquitos. On 20 May 1996 he released
a statement in which he said, "Having stayed in solitary confinement for one
week, sleeping on cold cement in a poorly lit cell, I find a further confinement
... chillingly stunning. I have suffered incredibly for simply holding
different opinions to those in authority. I have stood firmly for democracy
and human rights. These are causes for which I will always champion,
irrespective of personal suffering and inconveniences to my family and my
constituents".
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Njehu Gatabaki, a prominent critic of the government, has been arrested on
a number of occasions and currently has several sedition cases pending as a
result of articles which he published in Finance. In May 1995 Bernard Kahumbi
was found dead in his car. In the weeks following Bernard Kahumbi's death,
claims were made in the Kenyan parliament and elsewhere that he was murdered
by a government hit squad because of his failure to arrest Njehu Gatabaki.
This was vigorously denied by the authorities.
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Torture is frequently used by the Kenyan police to obtain "confessions" or
false statements incriminating others, especially in political cases. False
criminal charges have also been used to imprison non-violent dissidents.
Prison conditions in Kenya are harsh. In September 1995 a Kenyan High Court
judge described them as "death chambers" because of the high mortality rate.
He noted that "going to prison these days has become a sure way for a death
certificate". In October 1995 the Minister for Home Affairs, Francis Lotodo,
announced that over 800 prisoners had died since the beginning of the year.
Prisoners suffer from severe overcrowding, insanitary conditions and a lack
of adequate food, clothing and blankets. In these conditions infectious
diseases spread easily and there are few, if any, medical facilities.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes in English or your
own language:
- expressing concern that the police may attempt to arrest Njehu Gatabaki on
10 June on false charges;
- expressing serious concern at the possibility that Njehu Gatabaki may be
subsequently charged with a non-bailable offence and sent to prison;
- voicing fears for the safety of Njehu Gatabaki if this were to happen, given
his poor health and the extremely harsh conditions in Kenyan prisons;
- appealing for him not to be arrested or imprisoned on account of his non-violent
opinions.
APPEALS TO:
President Daniel arap Moi
Office of the President
PO Box 30501, Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: President Moi, Nairobi, Kenya
Telexes: 22003 FOREIGN ROB / 22796 FOREIGN RB
Faxes: + 254 2 337340 (if no tone, please try later)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Mr Amos Wako
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
PO Box 40112, Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: Attorney General Wako, Sheria, Kenya
Faxes: + 254 2 211 082
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Mr Noah arap Too
Director, Criminal Investigation Department
c/o Kenya Police Headquarters
PO Box 30083, Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: Director CID, Police Headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya
Salutation: Dear Director
COPIES TO:
Mr Paul Wamae
Law Society of Kenya
PO Box 28214
Nairobi, Kenya
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and to diplomatic representatives of KENYA accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

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