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Civil society stands firm with judicial nominees

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17- The civil society on Tuesday came out in strong defence of the nomination of Dr Willy Mutunga as Chief Justice saying his trademark ear stud should not be used as a factor to discredit him.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) Commissioner Hassan Omar said Dr Mutunga was chosen on a competitive platform owing to his capacity to deliver as a Chief Justice.

"How somebody dresses or looks like, is of no consequence. It is about his values and his competence. So I don\’t believe any person can have any substantive reason based on a stud," he said.

Mr Omar further said KNCHR supported the nominees endorsed by the Judicial Service Commission including Nancy Baraza who was nominated for the Deputy Chief Justice\’s post and that of Keriako Tobiko as the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The three nominees were approved by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Tuesday and the names forwarded to Parliament for debate and approval.

He argued that the interviews were competitively and transparently done adding that there was no point looking at \’queer reasons\’ that were likely to weaken the journey to cleaning the country\’s judicial system.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) also defended Dr Mutunga\’s nomination arguing that he was a reformist with a broad understanding of equality and therefore most suitable for the position of Chief Justice.

Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki also argued that the Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination on the basis of dress code adding that Dr Mutunga was free to dress as he pleased.

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"He\’s given his reasons for the stud saying it has spiritual meaning to him so why should he take it off? It would be like saying women cannot go into court wearing trousers," she said.

Ms Muthoni also claimed that those opposed to Dr Mutunga\’s nomination were using the stud as a tool to settle political scores and undermine reforms.

Lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui on Monday filed a court petition seeking to have Dr Mutunga\’s nomination as well as that of deputy Chief Justice, Nancy Baraza, repealed. Among the issues that lawyer Kinyanjui brought up was that the two nominees had openly supported homosexuality.

The church also announced on Monday that it had rejected their nominations saying their characters were in conflict with Christian beliefs and values.

"I think if you go back into history around the referendum last year you\’ll find that it\’s the same group of lawyers and the same group of religious institutions. This is a political battle being fought using whatever they can find and in this case the gay community is an easy target," she said.

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