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Urgent Interventions

Authorities should implement the PBO Act before it becomes paper tiger

Publication of a Briefing Note

Geneva-Paris, July 5, 2018 - 2,000 days after signing into law the2013 Public Benefits Organizations (PBO), the government is still refusing to implementthe Act and civil society in Kenya remains subjected to a draconian outdatedNGO law. In a briefing note published today, the Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) renews its call to the Kenyan governmentto uphold its promises to create an enabling environment for civil society inthe country.

2,000 days after itssignature into law, concerns remain as to the Government’s failure to implementthe 2013 PBO Act, which intended to open up the space for Kenyan civil society.Following the adoption of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, which clearly enshrinesthe right to freedom of association, on January 13, 2013 President Mwai Kibakihad signed into law the PBO Act, a progressive piece of legislation which aimsat ensuring a transparent and efficient regulation of civil society in Kenya,setting out clear rules on their registration and creating a system ofincentives in support of organisations conducting public benefit activities.

Since then, two HighCourt’s rulings have requested the Government to order the commencement of thePBO Act and in July 2017 leading political parties signed a pledge to implementit. In spite of all of this, the Government of Kenya not only failed to fulfilits promises, but pursued a path of criminalisation and harassment of civilsociety organisations, and attempted on several occasion to amend or annul thePBO Act.

The widening gap between the progressive legal frameworksparked by the entry into force of the 2010 Constitution and the government’slack of commitment to the PBO Act is of extremely high concern to us, inparticular in a climate in which the threat of refusal of registration isincreasingly being used as a tool to sanction peaceful and legitimate humanrights activities” said OMCT Secretary GeneralGerald Staberock.

In May2017, the Observatory published an internationalfact - finding mission reportillustrating a concerning pattern of violence and harassment aimed at silencingdissenting voices and perpetuating impunity in the country, further heightenedby the delay in implementing the 2013 PBO Act.

Between December 2014 and2015 only, more than 1,500 NGOs were threatened of deregistration by the NGOCoordination Board, based on claims that they failed to submit financialrecords. Several organisations have further been accused of links withterrorism, and their bank accounts have been frozen while the work permits offoreign employees have been withdrawn. The Observatory has also documentedseveral attempts to hinder the work of human rights organisations in theaftermath of the 2017 presidential elections.

The Kenyan government must stand with humanrights defenders and give full recognition to the pivotal role that a freeand unhindered civil society space plays in a democracy. After 2000 days ofinaction, we renew our call to the Kenyan authorities to immediately implementthe High Court rulings so as to put an end to the legal limbo to which NGOs arepresently tributary” concluded FIDH Vice-President Sheila Muwanga.

The Briefing Note is available in English.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is tointervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

For moreinformation, please contact:

· OMCT: Marta Gionco: +41 228 09 49 39;

· FIDH:Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94 - @Sam_hanryon / Maryna Chebat: +33 6 49 10 83 65 - - @MS_Chebat

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