Kenya: Arbitrary detention and disproportionate bail against 10 land rights defenders from Taita Taveta County

22/11/2016
Urgent Appeal

KEN 003 / 1116 / OBS 100
Arbitrary detention / Harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of assembly
Kenya
November 22, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kenya.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of ten land rights defenders, at the Taveta GK prison since November 1, 2016.

According to the information received, on October 31, 2016, eight members of the network organisation Building Africa [1], namely Messrs. Charles Mwanzia, Ramadhan Mathenge Kamosu, Justus Munyao, Fabian Ngure, Julius Kimondio, Frank Mbomani, Ambrose Hemed, Msafiri Mkillo, as well as two witnesses to a beneficiary of the organisation’s services, Messrs. Julius Masuma and Peter Kithome, were arrested while attending a public meeting about land grabbing and corruption in the city of Taveta, in Taita Taveta County of Kenya. They were charged by the Taveta Court the day after with “participation in an unlawful assembly”, in breach of Section 79 of the Penal Code. They immediately challenged this accusation, claiming that they had not committed any crime.

The Observatory fears that the judicial harassment of the ten defenders is linked to their legitimate human rights activities against the Phase 1 and 2 of the Taita Taveta Settlement Project, and their several denounces of corruption and irregular distribution of land in the territory.

The ten defenders remain in custody since their arrest, being unable to pay the bond fixed by the authorities for each of them to KES 300,000 (approx. 2,770 euros). This punitive use of the bail and bond system, which very often disproportionately affects human rights defenders and activists granting higher bails compared to criminals accused of more serious offences, has been already denounced by the Observatory among the preliminary findings of its mission to Kenya [2], as it only aims at deterring defenders from conducting their legitimate human rights activities. The defendants, helped by the Kenyan National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD-K) filed an application to the High Court asking for the review of the excessive bond imposed on them, since its purpose should not be to ensure the inability of the defendant to pay it, but it should rather be an incentive to return to court. The hearing will take place on November 23, 2016.

The Observatory would like to recall that harassment of land rights defenders has unfortunately been a pattern in the country for the last few years, both in rural areas, especially considering extractive industries and salt companies, and in urban settlements, regarding land grabbing by the Government.

The Observatory urges the Kenyan authorities to immediately and unconditionally release and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at judicial level, against the ten land rights defenders arbitrarily arrested and detained.
The Observatory recalls that the Kenyan authorities have the responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights in general and of the rights related to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in particular, as protected respectively under Articles 33, 36 and 37 of the 2010 Constitution.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Kenya asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs Charles Mwanzia, Ramadhan Mathenge Kamosu, Justus Munyao, Fabian Ngure, Julius Kimondio, Frank Mbomani, Ambrose Hemed, Msafiri Mkillo, Julius Masuma and Peter Kithome, since their detention is arbitrary and it only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

ii. Put an end against all acts of harassment – including at judicial level - against the ten above mentioned land rights defenders and the organisation Building Kenya, as well as against all human rights organisations and defenders in Kenya;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kenya are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities including the participation and the organisation of peaceful meetings and assemblies without any hindrance or fear of violence;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1 5(b) and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international 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
· 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 Genève, 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 missions or embassies of Kenya in your respective country.

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  • Co-signatories

    ***
    Geneva-Paris, November 22, 2016

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

    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by OMCT and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

    To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
    • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
    • Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
    • Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

  • Member organisations - Kenya
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    +254 20 2044545
    +254 20 2106709
    +254 20 3874998
    +254 20 3874997

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