Constitution: Rights bodies up in arms

February 4, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – Civil society organisations continue to register their protest over what they term as the “watering down of the Bill of Rights” by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review (PSC).

The Coalition on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Thursday joined in the fray and urged the Committee of Experts on the Constitution (CoE) to reinstate the rights originally provided for in the Harmonized Draft Constitution. The coalition called for the entrenchment of the citizen’s rights to health, education, housing, food and water in the draft.

Kituo cha Sheria Executive Director Priscilla Nyokabi who read a statement on behalf of the group said entrenching these rights would obligate the government to ensure equal provision to all citizens.

“If the Constitution states that every person has the right to these services, one can enforce the right where they are not provided,” she said and dismissed the PSC’s argument that the rights could adequately be provided by Acts of Parliament.

“For example the Constitution should clearly state that all citizens are entitled to adequate healthcare. A policy would then be produced to stipulate how this will be achieved,” she said.

In its proposed draft, the PSC mentions these rights but leaves it for Parliament to come up with policies for their provision.

“A country’s Constitution must address itself to the current problems of the people. These (rights) are the current problems we have,” said Ms Nyokabi.

The PSC expunged details on the rights provided by CoE arguing that they were not necessary in the Constitution. The parliamentarians argued that the supreme law should comprise of basic principles and not details.

Amnesty International Kenya Director Justus Nyang’aya however disputed this argument, saying Acts of Parliament are not sufficient safeguards to guarantee these rights.

“You cannot leave the rights to the goodwill of individuals in Parliament. You need to have them where they belong so that failure to provide them, people have the right to go to court and enforce them,” he said.

“You cannot enforce goodwill.”

Many other civil society organisations have protested the alleged “mutilation of the bill of rights.”

The Committee of Experts is currently scrutinizing PSC’s draft and is expected to incorporate their recommendations into a final draft to be released in two weeks. The PSC will have a week to present the revised draft to the House for debate and adoption. According to the law guiding the review, the draft is expected to be laid before Parliament not later than February 26.


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