Kenya on trial in Geneva

June 3, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – Kenya will be the subject of discussion at the United Nations Human Rights Council sitting in Geneva on Wednesday to defend itself against allegations of torture and extra-judicial killings.

UN’s Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings Prof Philip Alston will be tabling a damning report based on investigations he carried here in Kenya on police and military excesses.

This includes arbitrary killings of suspects by a police ‘death squad’ code-named Kwekwe which, he says, is to blame for the killing of at least 500 suspected members of the outlawed gang-the Mungiki-in an offensive launched against it since 2006.

The report released through the UN Human Rights Council last week recommends the immediate sacking of Police Commissioner Maj General Mohammed Hussein Ali and resignation of Attorney General Amos Wako who have been accused of poor leadership.

In his report due to be tabled at the council on Wednesday, Prof Alston states that the number of those killed could be increasingly high, because some incidents may have gone unreported.

The Kenyan government is represented at the council by a high powered delegation led by Attorney General Amos Wako, Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, Lands Minister James Orengo and East African Community Minister Amason Kingi.

The team comprises of representatives from both sides of the Coalition Government who have publicly and repeatedly taken different positions on the report.

While Mr Wako, Prof Saitoti and Mr Kilonzo of the PNU side of government insists they are going to defend Kenya against the accusations, Mr Orengo and Mr Kingi have made it clear that they, “fully agree with Prof Alston and will be making that position known in Geneva.”

“We in ODM fully support Prof Alston’s report and the reforms he has outlined in it,” Mr Orengo said. “ODM will have to send a representation to make that position known.”

On the other hand, the Justice Minister spelt out what he termed the government position which largely criticises the report and its author.

It is unlikely that the two parties will reach consensus and may be headed for a face-off at the council which may result to an embarrassment to the Kenyan government.

“As much as we agree with Prof Alston on some of the issues, we take great exception with some part of it. We will be mounting defence in Geneva,” Mr Kilonzo said.

The government has repeatedly rubbished the report by Prof Alston. See link below:

A summary of the government defence given by Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua in his official website expresses “grave concern regarding the allegations contained in the report by the Special Rapporteur.”

“His questioning of the very basis of the Kenyan State and in particular its institutions is totally unacceptable, and impinges on Kenya’s sovereignty,” he states.

Part of the delegation in Geneva which is sympathetic with government will be questioning Prof Alston’s approach, conduct and method of work which Dr Mutua said was “contrary to the Code of Conduct for the Special Procedures Mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council.

“He denied the Government the opportunity to review and respond to his preliminary findings which he made public at a Press Conference at the end of his visit, in contravention of Article 8 – on sources of information contained in the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council,” Dr Mutua said.

He terms call for the removal of constitutional office holders in key Government institutions as “paternalistic, unhelpful and uncalled for.”

“The Government out rightly rejects this call,” he states. “He (Prof Alston) failed to understand the country’s peculiarities, recent political problems and the challenges it faces in its healing and reconciliation process after the post election violence.”

Capital News established that the police chief has dispatched his Spokesman Erick Kiraithe to hold brief for him.

It is however, unlikely that Mr Kiraithe will get chance to mount any defence at the council because he is not on the official list of the government delegation cleared by President Mwai Kibaki.

“The commissioner had a feeling he wanted to have someone who will brief him on the developments in Geneva. He was only mandated to go take notes and brief the Commissioner,” a senior police officer at police headquarters said.

Though with little chances of getting audience at the Council, Mr Kiraithe is armed with an 11-page document prepared by the Police commissioner in which he blatantly dismisses Prof Alston’s report as ‘unrealistic and full of propaganda.”

Read the police response here

“The summary by Prof Alston provides little substance beyond unfortunate obsession with the Police and wild allegations lacking even an iota of proof,” part of the report titled ALSTON’ REPORT: WORK OF A BIGOTED ACTIVIST states.

Prof Alston’s Senior Advisor Sarah Knuckey said the report will be orally summarised on Wednesday.

“Prof Alston will orally summarise his findings at the Human Rights Council. Kenya (and other Governments) will then have an opportunity to respond,” she said in an email to Capital News.

If adopted by the UN Council, Kenya may be compelled to implement all the recommendations in the report which may also include the matter being taken up by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The council may also choose to ignore the report altogether.

Among the key recommendations outlined in the report is the suspension of the Kenya military from participating in any future UN or AU peace keeping missions until an independent investigations body clears it on allegations of torture during the Mt Elgon offensive operation against members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF).


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