Kenya: Bank account of human rights organisations Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) must be unfrozen

(Geneva, Paris) The Kenyan authorities must ensure an enabling environment for human rights organisations including Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and end discriminatory and abusive restrictions to their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, said the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (joint FIDH-OMCT programme).

On November 12, 2015, the Mombasa High Court will decide on whether Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) bank accounts will be unfrozen so that they can continue with their normal operations and work in the defence of the rights of coastal communities in Kenya. Haki Africa and MUHURI are two human rights organisations that advocate for constitutional means to counter terrorism while also observing human rights. On May 28, 2015, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Coordination Board attempted to de-register them while previously on April 8 their banks accounts were frozen.

On June 11, 2015, the Mombasa High Court ordered that the Kenyan State remove both organisations from the list of terrorist organisations under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. To date, that removal has not yet translated into the unfreezing of their accounts, preventing the organisations from pursuing their human rights work.

"The two human rights organisations pursue legitimate human rights activities and work openly and peacefully. Listing them as terrorist organisations was clearly politically motivated. The Court must ensure the right to freedom of association of human rights organisations and immediately and unconditionally unfreeze their bank accounts and put an end to all form of harassment at the administrative and judicial level."

FIDH President Karim Lahidji

"It is especially in times of crisis and amidst legitimate security concerns that human rights organisations must be able to address potential grievances of the Muslim communities in Kenya. Silencing these voices is violating international standards accepted by Kenya on freedom of association and assembly. This must end. Importantly it risks exacerbating sentiments in society of the State targeting communities - hence gravely damaging the fight against terrorism."

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

Lately, major obstacles to the right to freedom of association have been reported in Kenya. On October 28, 2015, 957 Kenyan organisations, including the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHCR), were announced through the media to be de-registered by the NGO Coordination Board for failing to account for KES 1.2B (approx. 10 million Euros) should they fail to present audited accounts to the Board. Our organisations take note of the subsequent decision by the Government to suspend the NGO Coordination Board notice, but remain concerned by the Governement’s attempt to muzzle human rights through the use of restrictive legislation to legitimise the harassment of human rights defenders and organisations.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon authorities in Kenya to ensure the respect of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and to put an end to all form of harassment against Haki Africa, MUHURI and other human rights organisations in Kenya.

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