Alert Bangladesh: Prominent defenders receive two-year prison sentences

2017 elections: Broken promises put human rights defenders at risk - Publication of an international fact-finding report

Geneva-Nairobi-Paris,May 3, 2017 - The abduction, tortureand killing of renowned Kenyan humanrights lawyer Willie Kimani in June 2016 shocked the entire world, provoking awave of outrage at national and international level. This is only the tip ofthe iceberg of a widespread pattern of violence and harassment aimed atsilencing dissenting voices and perpetuating impunity, declared the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership) in the mission report it publishedtoday.

Kenya, a country that in2010 voted a very progressive Constitution strengthening the country’s humanrights framework in compliance with international standards, has in recentyears chosen a different path. So far the freedoms enshrined in theconstitutional Bill of Rights have not been fully incorporated into domesticlegislation, and, most importantly, are not upheld or implemented in practice.

To date, the effective implementation ofthis progressive framework unfortunately remains a mirage and still needssubstantial improvement”, declared OMCT Secretary General GeraldStaberock. “With all the rightinstruments put in place to bring about change, lack of implementation andpolitical will appear to be the main reasons for such disillusionment”.

On the contrary, a report published today by the Observatoryaccounts for high levels of police and security forces’ violence, especiallyagainst human rights defenders involved in the fight against impunity for humanrights violations. The mission report compiles several testimoniesof incidents of violence, including cases of harassment, threats, torture,enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Moreover, human rightsdefenders are often criminalised on the basis of trumped-up charges, which aimat intimidating them through episodes of frequent arrests, detentions in policestations, long trials and punitive bail and bond terms. This inevitablyprevents them from pursuing their legitimate human rights activities.

Adding to this, the lack ofa clear legal framework regulating the civil society sector due to the failureto commence implementation of the Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) Act 2013creates a legal limbo which obliges NGOs to operate in a hostile environment,characterised by the threat of arbitrary de-registration and asset freezes,continuous attacks and smearing campaigns.

In such a context, and ahead of theupcoming general elections, it is urgent that Kenyan authorities publiclyrecognise the crucial role of human rights defenders as pillars of democracyand watchdogs of the rule of law. They must improve their safety, trulyimplement the police and security sector reforms, hold perpetratorsaccountable, acknowledge the misuse of criminal law to harass defenders, andfinally commence the PBO Act of 2013”, concluded FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

The full report is available in English here.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent orremedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDHare both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.

For interviews, please contact:

· Brussels:Peter Zangl, Observatory mission delegate and OMCT Representative at theEuropean Union: +41 22 809 49 39

· Nairobi:Moses Okinyi, ICJ-Kenya Communication Officer: +254 726 98 97 13

For moreinformation, please contact:
• OMCT: Chiara Cosentino: +41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33672284294

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