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Joint Press Release: Human rights defenders should be protected during electoral processes

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KENYA:Human rights defenders should be protected during electoral processes

Geneva-Paris, August 4, 2017 – Four days ahead ofthe Kenyan Presidential elections, as attacks against human rights defendershave increased during the pre-electoral period, the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH) andthe National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) urge theauthorities to ensure their protection, and publicly recognise their role toensure transparent, fair, peaceful and human rights focused elections.Authorities should prevent further escalation and improve the environment forcivil society in Kenya, especially ahead of, during and after the elections.

During the pre-election phase from April to June 2017,13 cases of attacks against human rights defenders linked to the electoralcontext, were reported to NCHRD-K[1].

Attacks occurred while human rights defenders were carryingout monitoring, documenting, and observing activities linked to the upcomingelections. This pattern of harassment and attacks aimed at silencing them doesnot bode well”,declared Kamau Ngugi, NCHRD-K Executive Director.

According to NCHRD-K, several human rights defendersinvolved in monitoring, documenting and observing the electoral campaign andprimaries were physically attacked or harassed, threatened, and evenarbitrarily arrested. Journalists and human rights defenders were also barredfrom documenting, entering or forced to leave campaign meetings. Furthermore,during these political rallies, intimidating statements and negative rhetoricagainst human rights defenders have been used by politicians, government andparty officials, accusing them of influencing the outcome of the elections.

Humanrights defenders who educate voters, are working on electoral observation andmonitoring and call for accountability must be protected to allow them to carryon their legitimate work. The lack of a conducive environment for civil societycan potentially jeopardise the fairness and democratic character of electoralprocesses. The international community must keep a close eye on the electoralprocess and more particularly the situation of human rights defenders”, declared OMCTSecretary General Gerald Staberock.

TheObservatory recalls the findings of its mission report “Kenya: 2017 elections: Broken promises put humanrights defenders at risk”, publishedin May 2017[2],that denounced a widespread pattern of violence andharassment aimed at silencing dissenting voices and perpetuating impunity, including a worrying increase in cases of policebrutality, extrajudicial killings[3]and enforced disappearances, in an entrenchedculture of impunity for these violations[4],as well as urges the authorities to implement the recommendationsformulated in this report.

Over thepast four years, human rights defenders in Kenya have worked under constantpressure. Regardless of the outcome of next week's general elections, theincoming authorities will have to commit to create an environment whereimpunity of those responsible for human rights violations is not tolerated”, concluded FIDH Vice-PresidentSheila Muwanga.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 bythe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of thisprogramme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression againsthuman rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of,the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

For moreinformation, please contact:

· OMCT: DelphineReculeau (French/English) - +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)

· FIDH: Audrey Couprie(French/English) - +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)

· NCHRD-K – Yvonne Wamari & Kamau Ngugi - + 254712632390/ +254716200100 (Nairobi)

[1] See NCHRD-K’s report: “Humanrights defenders and journalists situation leading up to the 2017 elections.Report for the period April to June 2017”, July 2017

[2] See the Observatory’s report “Kenya: 2017 elections: Brokenpromises put human rights defenders at risk”, May 2017

[3] On April 3, 2017,two unarmed boys were brutally killed by police in plain clothes. Three Commissioners of the African Commission on Humanand Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) condemned the extrajudicial killing and asked for aprompt investigation. See ACHPR ACHPR Joint Press-Release of April 5, 2017 on the alleged public killings of two persons in Eastleigh in Kenya.

[4] See FIDH’s report“Kenya’s Scorecard on Security and Justice : Broken Promises and Unfinishedbusiness”, August 2017.

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