Kenya rights bodies go for security agents

December 15, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – A section of human rights organisations have proposed a raft of amendments to the Harmonised Draft Constitution on issues of national security, including limiting the powers of the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS).

Meeting under the umbrella of Usalama Reform Forum, the organisations, among them the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), said the draft should enact provisions which will bar the NSIS from tapping into people’s conversations without obtaining court orders.

“They need to go to court and give reasonable grounds to show why so and so is a threat to national security, and on the basis of that, the court can grant some minimum time-bound intervention to see whether it can help in the tracking that is going on,” KNCHR’s Vice Chairman Hassan Omar Hassan told a press conference on Tuesday.

He said the current framework which allows the NSIS to eavesdrop on people’s conversations without following a legal framework amounts to violation of basic human rights.

The NSIS as currently constituted can tap into any one’s telephone conversation for an unlimited period.

This mainly occurs when the security organ has cause to believe that an individual or group of individuals are involved in activities that can jeopardise the country’s national security or any other reason justified by the NSIS officials themselves.

Representatives of the Usalama Reform Forum said they also wanted the 

esident barred from extending terms of military chiefs whenever they expire.

Mr Hassan said by allowing the President who is also the Commander-In-Chief to re-appoint the military chief on expiry of their terms, the country risked being held hostage by the Head of State.

He said they would submit the proposals to the Committee of Experts “so that provisions are included in the draft stipulating a term limit for military chiefs.”

“You can’t indefinitely be renewing someone’s contract even way past his retirement age. There must be a term limit,” he said.

The human rights campaigners want the Committee of Experts to include provisions to ensure “there is a procedure of appointment and removal.”

The group also wants the management of traffic given to the Administration Police, arguing that the security outfit is underutilised by being deployed to guard VIPs and their residences.

Currently, the management of traffic affairs is bestowed on the regular police.

Mr Omar said transferring traffic management to the APs would support regional governments as proposed in the draft constitution in providing security and enforcement of administrative functions in the exercise of lawful duties.

“This is a point at which in spirit, the enabling act should take away traffic responsibilities from the regular police and give them to regional authorities because afterall, traffic management is best done at the local level.”


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