Kenya
06.02.08
Urgent Interventions

Death threats against several human rights defenders

New information
KEN 001 / 0108 / OBS 005.1
Death threats

Kenya

February 6, 2008

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), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kenya.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of death threats against Ms. Muthoni Wanyeki, Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Ms. Gladwell Otieno, Director of the Africa Centre for Open Government, Ms. Njeri Kabeberi, Executive Director of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy, as well as Messrs. Maina Kiai, former Chairman of KHRC and Chair of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Haroun Ndubi, lawyer and member of the Kenya Domestic Observers Forum, Ndung'u Wainaina, member of the National Convention Executive Council, James Maina, member of Bunge La Mwananchi (the People's Parliament), and David Ndii, co-founder and Director of the Kenya Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization that seeks to raise-awareness on public policy issues, and author of a report on the last elections' irregularities.

According to the information received, on January 25, 2008, Mr. Maina received a series of death threats from the Mungiki,[1] who promised that they would kill him even if he went into hiding. These death threats follow similar acts of harassment that occurred on January 10 and 15, 2008. On January 15, a Mungiki member who was waiting for Mr. Maina in town reportedly threatened him directly as he saw him. This was followed by a phone call from his neighbour a few hours later, who informed Mr. Maina that about ten people were looking for him. At the end of January, Mr. Maina was forced to change his phone number and the place where he was staying, and subsequently fled the country.

The Observatory was further informed of death threats against Messrs. Kiai and Ndubi, who received phone calls from anonymous people who told them that they would cut off their heads if they went on criticising the outcome of the elections.

In addition, Mr. Wainaina asserted that a former Councillor from Nyahururu, where he comes from, told him that he risked to be killed if he carried on criticising the presidential elections, saying that he was betraying the community and that he would never see Nyahururu again if he continued to do so.

According to the information, Ms. Wanyeki, Ms. Otieno, Ms. Kabeberi and Mr. Ndii also received death threats in the course of January.

These threats seem to be linked with the denunciation of the irregularities that marred the process and outcome of the latest presidential elections, and with the submission[2] to Kilimani Police Station of a private complaint against the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) with regard to criminal offenses (making of false certificates; neglect of duty; disobedience of statutory duty; forgery of judicial or official documents, etc.) by its officers committed in the processing, management and control of the general elections. This submission was made on behalf of the Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice Initiative (KPTJ), a coalition gathering independent NGOs as well as the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, of which some of the above-mentioned defenders are members.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about these threats, and fears that they might be aimed at intimidating human rights defenders and striking down their activities in support of the principle of free and fair elections,[3] in a context of increasing political tension.

The Observatory also recalls that according to Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, “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.”

Background information:

On January 8, 2008, reliable sources within the Kenyan Police Force and the National Security Intelligence Service informed KPTJ that the personal safety and security of its members, including Mr. Maina Kiai, former Chairman of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Chair of the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, was at risk and that a special unit had been formed to consider “methods of neutralisation” of the latter, who were also warned that they had to be cautious when driving at night.

Actions required:

Please write to the Kenyan authorities, urging them to:

  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned human rights defenders and of all human rights defenders in the country;
  2. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against the above-mentioned human rights defenders, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;
  3. Put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in Kenya;
  4. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as above-mentioned Article 12.2;
  5. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Kenya.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya, Email: 780@yahoo.com;
  • 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
  • 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 embassies of Kenya in your respective countries.

Geneva - Paris, February 6, 2008

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

The Observatory, a 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.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax: FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax: OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

[1] Mungiki is a politico-religious group and a banned criminal organization in Kenya.

[2] The submission was filed on January 10, 2008.

[3] On January 10, 2008, a peaceful march was organized by the KPTJ to Kilimani Police Station to file a private prosecution against the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) with regard to criminal offenses (making of false certificates; neglect of duty; disobedience of statutory duty; forgery of judicial or official documents, etc.) committed in the processing, management and control of the general elections.

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