Worrying levels of rights abuses in Kenya

September 22, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – A baseline survey on human rights violations in the country indicates that there were 43,922 reported cases of abuse between the 2005 and 2010.

The study by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) released on Wednesday showed that women rights violations topped the list with 10,761 reported cases.

KHRC Acting Programme Coordinator Tom Kagwe said the data also showed sexual harassment of women at the work place had been rising steadily.

“Between July and December 2005 and January to June 2010, it is quite clear that violations of women’s rights always top up averagely about 1,000 cases per six months,” he said.

Mr Kagwe further referred to cases of women rights abuse that had been reported to the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) as well the Nairobi Women’s Gender Violence Recovery Center saying they adequately illustrated the violations.

“Criminal acts of a sexual nature committed against women continue dominating the human rights violations. Women are beaten by their husbands, killed and raped and most of these cases go unreported,” he said.

The report also highlighted the laxity of the Judiciary and evaluated its role in the violations of human rights.

In June this year, a study by a legal aid civil group indicated that Kenya’s judicial system had a backlog of 998,263 cases countrywide.  Of these, 209,668 were awaiting determination before the High Court while 788,595 were pending before Magistrates’ Courts.

“What is the role of the Judiciary in the realisation, protection and promotion of human rights? The Judiciary is a fundamental institution that must be discussed and that’s why in framing the context of today’s discussion, we cannot ignore it. It is the Judiciary that is fully responsible for interpreting the Constitution and help promote human tights,” said Mr Kagwe.

He further pointed out the fact that the build up in the undetermined cases had increased overcrowding in prison facilities which was also an abuse of human rights.

“Many prisons are reported to hold two to three times the number of prisoners they were designed to house. King’ong’o prison in Nyeri is said to hold 1,700 inmates against its original capacity of 600 while Kakamega prison has 900 inmates instead of 500,” he said.

The report also showed that Kenyans lacked faith in their judicial system: “This could be seen in the increasing cases of mob injustice where Kenyans take the law into their own hands and do what they think is right.”

Death penalty was also mentioned as an avenue where human rights were abused. Over the past five years, the death penalty accounted for 9,060 cases of human rights violations.

The KHRC asked the government to ensure that the provisions of the new laws touching on human rights were honored. Mr Kagwe noted that the old constitution had no provisions for the promotion of human rights.

“The statistics reveal a consistent breakdown in the rule of law and the government must ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms of Kenyans are upheld,” he said.



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