Kenyans seek refuge at rights lobby

May 11, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – A human rights lobby says it is overwhelmed by the number of possible victims of the post election violence seeking refuge under its wings.

Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki said on Tuesday that so far, they had received 177 applications against their capacity to shelter only 50 people.

She stated that the only option to cater for all the witnesses properly is for them to be placed under the Victims and Witnesses Unit within the International Criminal Court (ICC) since the government lacked the capacity to do so.

“The agency is not operational even though their projection is that they will have the capacity this or next month. We do not think that is practical and we also do not think that there is high public trust in the capacity of a public agency to protect them,” she stated.

She was speaking during a consultative meeting with media houses where she stated that her Commission was in the process of gathering advocates to represent the victims once ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo commences his case.

“It’s obviously not clear who his witnesses are and it’s obvious no referral to the agency has been done since we do not know who he is pursuing and there is no defence yet,” she said.

“So what we are doing is to quickly get in place advocates for victims who will be able to apply as and when necessary to that agency on victims’ behalf.”

Parliament last month passed The Witness Protection (Amendment) Bill 2010 which sought to strengthen the witness protection Act.  The KHRC said that the amendments improved the state’s capacity for witness protection in respect to Human rights violations.

A highlight of the Bill is the creation of a Witness Protection Agency that was expected to put in place strong measures to curb rising cases of witness intimidation, ahead of imminent ICC trials.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is in Kenya on a five-day tour as part of investigations into the 2008 post-election violence.


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