Kenya: Administrative harassment of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC)

KEN 002 / 1115 / OBS 095
Obstacles to freedom of association / Smearing
Kenya
November 13, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kenya.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the administrative harassment of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), a human rights organisation advocating for the promotion of human rights, democratic values and social justice in Kenya.

According to the information received, on October 28, 2015, the KHRC became aware, through the media, of the decision of the Kenyan NGO Coordination Board (the Board) to de-register 957 Kenyan organisations, if they failed to present audited accounts to the Board within a 14-day notice. The KHRC was among the NGOs listed by the Board.

Subsequently, the KHRC wrote to the Board to request further information on the allegations and the motivations of the decision highlighting that there had been no prior warning, communication or enquiry to the KHRC regarding the status of their returns. In a press release dated October 28, 2015, the Board accused the organisation of failing to account around KES 1.2 billion (approx. 10 million Euros), managing four illegal accounts, and transmitting inaccurate financial reports. The KHRC responded that it had complied with all regulatory and legal requirements and decided to respond to both the KHRC’s and broader sectoral issues, using this challenge as an opportunity to denounce recent restrictions and call for the respect the civic space for all.

On October 30, 2015, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and National Planning ordered the revocation of the decision to issue notice of de-registration.

KHRC intends to institute a suit against the NGO Board’s illegal and irregular actions.

The Observatory would like to recall that the Board’s decision to potentially de-register the KHRC is part of a larger campaign of repression against independent civil society organisations. Over the last two years, the NGO Board has drafted four sets of harmful amendments to the Public Benefits Act (PBO Act 2013). The harsher amendments have sought to cap foreign funding to 15%, undermine self-regulation and impose excessive national executive regulation. In December 2014, the Bureau de-registered 540 organisations. Two weeks later, the Bureau reinstated 179 organisations after they proved they were in full compliance. The opportunity of the PBO Taskforce to create a consensus on the amendments to the PBO Act was squandered by the NGO Coordination Bureau in April. In June 2015, the Government froze the accounts of Haki Africa and MUHURI, two local human rights organisations, on the recommendation of the NGO Board [1]. Less than two months later, the High Court found that the two organisations had no case to answer [2]. On November 12, 2015, the court lifted the ban on the accounts.

In this context, the Observatory remains concerned about the target of human rights groups, especially those who call for accountability for Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence and those documenting security forces abuses.

The Observatory strongly condemns the harassment of KHRC and other NGOs in Kenya, which seems to merely aim at preventing them from carrying out their legitimate human rights work. More generally, the Observatory reiterates its concerns regarding the shrinking space imposed by the Government to the civil society in Kenya.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Kenya, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological security and integrity of the members of the KHRC, as well as of all human rights defenders in Kenya;

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the administrative level – against the KHRC and their members, as well as against all human rights organisations in Kenya so that they are able to carry out their work without any hindrances;

iii. Acknowledge the important role played by civil society in promoting tolerance in the struggle against violent extremism and ensure an enabling environment in which human rights defenders and civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its:
- Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- Article 12.2 , which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Kenya.

Addresses:

· Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, State House, Statehouse Road, P.O Box: 40530 00100, Nairobi, Kenya, Fax: +254-020-2436, Email: president@statehousekenya.go.ke
· Hon. William Ruto, Deputy-President of the Republic of Kenya, Office of The Deputy President, Harambee Avenue, P.O. Box 74434 - 00200 Nairobi, Kenya, Tel: +254 20 3247000/1/2/3/4/5, Email: dp@deputypresident.go.ke
· Hon. Joseph Nkaissery, Interior & Coordination of National Government, Harambee House, Harambee Avenue, P.O Box 30510,00100 Nairobi, Tel: +254-20-2227411, Email: ps.interior@kenya.go.ke
· Hon. Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, The Presidency , Harambee House, Harambee Avenue, P.O. Box 30005, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya; Tel: +254-20- 2252299 Email: cs@devolutionplanning.go.ke
· Commissioner of Police, Kenya Police Headquarters, Vigilance House, Harambee Avenue, P.O. Box 30083, Nairobi, Kenya, Tel: +254-020-341411/6/8, Email: commissioner@police.go.ke, complaints@police.go.ke
· Commissioner Kagwiria Mbogori, Chairperson, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Fax: +254-020- 2716160 E-mail: haki@knchr.org
· H.E. Mr. Stephen Ndungu Karau, Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations in Geneva, Av. de la Paix 1-3, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 731 29 05, E-mail: mission.kenya@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Johnson Weru, Embassy of Kenya in Brussels, 208 av. W. Churchill, 1180 Uccle, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 340 10 50 / + 32 2 340 10 68. Email: kenbrussels@hotmail.com

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Kenya in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, November 13, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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