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Kenya police under fire from rights body

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is pushing for mandatory bail for people held over the stipulated 24 hours in police custody, without being charged in court.

KNCHR Vice Chairman Hassan Omar Hassan said on Monday that holding people longer than permitted by law was an infringement of their freedom of movement and urged the Attorney General to intervene and find way forward.

“All of you today know the nightmare of being arrested on a Friday evening. Most of you try to avoid arrest on Friday evenings because you know that might portend that you spend the rest of the weekend in police custody,” he said.

“You arrest someone on a Friday morning; keep him away from his family, keep him away from his society beyond 48 hours then release him.”

“Who in Kenya has been given those powers?” he asked? Then added:   “Nobody! and I think we will be moving to ensure that those declarations and interpretations are made.”

Referring to the arrest and detention of Mars Group Chief Executive Officer Mwalimu Mati and his wife over the weekend, Mr Hassan decried such action and termed it as inhuman.

He further called for tough penalties on those who defied rules and regulations as stated within the Constitution.

“We will be trying to work with Parliament on some of these silent issues including the committee on the administration of justice and legal affairs to have criminal sentences for those who violated the constitution,” he stated.

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He added that the sentence handed down for such blatant disregard of the law should be one which will prevent any recurrence of breaking rules.

“If you hold someone for more than the 24 hours as stipulated by law, you are liable to at least a minimum of two years imprisonment,” he emphasised.

Speaking on the Media Bill, Mr Hassan said that lack of quorum in the 10th Parliament was largely to blame for the passing of the controversial Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008.

He said that the lack of quorum gave evidence of the lack of the seriousness by the legislators to serve Kenyans.

He urged parliamentarians to take their service to Kenyans more seriously as this was the only way that change could be effected within the country.

“The primary duty of the Members of Parliament is to pass legislation. They are not here in Nairobi to spend time in hotels, to cut business deals because that defeats the attainment of quorum in terms of critical debates,” he observed.

He went further to accuse MPs of failing to do enough in their fight for the rights of the ordinary Kenyan.

“The legislators do not really understand what is the primary duty of legislators i.e. to legislate,” Mr Hassan charged.

Speaking to Capital News, he also urged the politicians advocating for a free press to follow their words with actions and to quit playing the blame game.

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“What they need to do now is not to cry over spilt milk. Not to push or blame other political actors,” he affirmed and further stated: “What they should do genuinely is to remedy the situation by asserting how they propose to undo the doings of Parliament which happened last week.”

Speaking at the same time, Haki Focus Executive director Haroun Ndubi who was acting for Mati and his wife, accused MPs of being two-faced on the issue of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill.

He demanded a clear explanation especially from legislators who had changed tune on their support of the ICT Bill.

“Members of Parliament just think we are foolish. They think Kenyans are foolish because there are many ways of supporting something,” he stated sceptically.

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