Kenya bullying activists, says Alston

April 8, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 8 – The UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial killings says Kenya’s law enforcement agencies have engaged in systematic intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders since he released his report on illegal killings.

In a statement issued in New York, Prof Phillip Alston said dozens of prominent human rights defenders and their families have been targeted in a campaign designed to silence them and their organisations.

“Non-cooperation with a UN mission is one thing,” said Prof Alston, “but making threats against those that have provided information to the UN, as well as harassing their families, is quite another.”

Prof Alston also claimed that significant numbers of rights officials have been forced into hiding within Kenya or exile in other countries.

“All indications seem to point to the fact that the campaign has been carefully coordinated within the government,” according to Prof Alston. “Individuals from many different civil society groups across the country have been targeted, threatening telephone messages have been left for a wide range of prominent public figures, and the security forces have made repeated visits and threats to the family members of those who have fled,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur noted that there has been no substantive response to complaints registered by the UN, and no critical statements have been made by President Mwai Kibaki, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, or others who exercise control over the security forces.

In addition, he said, offers of help from America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to probe assassinations for which the police appear to have been responsible have been rebuffed.

Prof Alston said Kenya’s government should immediately comply with the UN Mission report and issue instructions to both the police and military to “cease and desist from acts of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders.”

He said the text of such instructions should be made public.

Prof Alston embarked on a mission in Kenya to probe extrajudicial killings which touched on the alleged assassination of innocents including outlawed Mungiki suspects. Hot on the heels of his report, two rights defenders working with the Oscar Foundation were shot dead moments after the government had linked their organisation with the Mungiki sect and had warned of dire consequences. Their killings are yet to be resolved.


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