URGENT - Call for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council with regard to the human rights crisis in Kenya

Press release

Geneva, Paris, Nairobi, 29 January 2008

URGENT - Call for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council with regard to the human rights crisis in Kenya

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) are extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Kenya, which, since the outcome of the election, is continuing to deteriorate. We call upon you to intervene, in view of the mandate with which you are entrusted as member of the UN Human Rights Council, in calling for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Continuing deterioration, in spite of mediation efforts

The violence has resulted in over 700 deaths and approximately 250,000 internally displaced persons. Kenyans refugees continue to cross the borders to neighboring countries. One opposition lawmaker has since been murdered in mysterious circumstances, precipitating a new wave of violence in some parts of Nairobi.

Despite recent high-level mediation efforts, violence has resumed in the Rift Valley Province, notably in Nakuru and Naivasha, where around 100 persons died since Thursday 24, January, in political and ethnic clashes. Kalenjin and Kikuyu young men are fighting each other armed with machetes, wooden clubs and bows and arrows. The crisis seems to have mutated from an electoral dispute into much deeper problems, notably, historical injustices and ethnic and economical rivalries.

Independent sources also recently report burnings and looting of private property in Nairobi’s informal settlements, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kericho, Mombasa and other parts of the country. UNICEF indicated that cases of rape are increasing notably in the informal internally displaced persons’ camps. Numerous extrajudicial killings have also taken place most conspicously during rallies called by the opposition party to protest electoral irregularities. FIDH and KHRC qualify most of these killings as summary executions committed by police forces against unarmed protesters, notably by members of the General Service Unit, in violation of the right to life protected under section 71 of the Constitution of Kenya, Article 6 of the ICCPR and Article 4 of the ACHPR. Moreover, FIDH and KHRC have strongly denounced elections irregularities which contradict an array of regional and international human rights1.

According to the African Union (AU) mediator, Kofi Annan, Kenya faces «gross and systematic human rights abuses ».

On Tuesday 22 January, the African Union Peace and Security Council has condemned "the massive human rights violations in Kenya" and called for "the establishment of a Commission of inquiry to identify the perpetrators of the violations and to bring them to justice".

A conflict deeply rooted in permanent human rights violations

The present conflict is not new to Kenya. As documented by an FIDH report published in May 2007,2 similar politically motivated ethnic clashes occurred as early as December 1992, on the occasion of the first multi-party general elections. KANU leaders (Party of the then President Daniel Arap Moi) then fueled ethnic rivalries into violence in many parts of the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western Provinces, in order to "secure" that their constituency be "cleaned" from other communities viewed as opposition supporters. As a consequence of the State-sponsored violence, many Kenyans were displaced and a large portion of the population was unable to register as voters or was barred from voting by violence and intimidation.

Violence continued relentlessly in the post-election period until 1996. From 1991 to 1996, over 15,000 people died and almost 300,000 were displaced in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western Provinces. In the run-up to the 1997 elections, fresh violence erupted on the Coast, killing over 100 people and displacing over 100,000, mostly pro-opposition people. Other incidences of politically instigated clashes were experienced between 1999 and 2005 mostly in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and the Western Kenya regions.

Indicators of the crisis around the 2007 general elections were present as early as April 2007, in Subukia, Gucha, Laikoni and Mount Elgon, when outbursts of violence would have led to the forced displacement of hundreds of persons.

The recurrent cycle of violence has been facilitated by the fact that the perpetrators and instigators still benefit from impunity, and that the internally displaced persons, the largest community in Africa, were never properly settled.

The Human Right’s Council’s Responsibility to Protect and Prevent

We thus call on you, as a member of the Human Rights Council, to fulfill your mandate derived from Article 3 to "address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon » and Article 5.f, to "contribute [...] towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies », in calling, without further delay, for a special session of the Human Rights Council.

The Special session should, inter alia,
- Issue a strong and firm condemnation of the grave and massive human rights violations,

- Call for accountability and an end to the impunity as the only basis for a long term resolution of the tensions in Kenya,

- Call for the prompt deployment of an international Commission of Inquiry, composed of independent experts, which would investigate into three main areas:
- The electoral irregularities;
- The grave human rights violations that occurred around the elections, identifying the perpetrators and persons responsible, in order to fight against their impunity;
- The root causes of the political and ethnic violence in Kenya, issuing specific recommendations for the settlement of the tensions, including the resolution of the IDPs crisis, in conformity with the UN guiding principles on internal displacement3 as well as the land issues.

Your reaction may today help prevent further violations, and contribute to the long term settlement of the political crisis that Kenya faces. Thanking you for your attention and mobilisation,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen

Dan Juma
Acting Deputy Executive Director

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