Kenya: Stop administrative harassment of Kenya Human Rights Commission and other NGOs

Please sign the petition to stop administrative harassment of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and other NGOs. The deadline for signatures is 31 December 2015.

To: Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya 

RE: concern regarding recent administrative harassment against the Kenya Human Rights Commission and other Kenyan human rights NGOs

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, individuals and organizations working to protect the human rights, across the globe, respectfully wish to express our concern regarding some information we have received relating to recent actions of the Kenyan NGO Board that we believe constitute administrative harassment of various Kenyan non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in particular the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).

KHRC is a well-respected human rights organisation that advocates for the promotion of human rights, democratic values and social justice in Kenya. We have been informed of the October 2015 decision of the Kenyan NGO Coordination Board (the Board) to de-register 957 Kenyan organisations, including KHRC, if they failed to present audited accounts to the Board within a 14-day notice period. Reportedly, the KHRC was given no prior warning regarding this decision, nor was it informed of any concerns regarding their accounts. We have also been informed of the Board’s press release issued on October 28, 2015 accusing KHRC of failing to account for KES 1.2 billion, managing four illegal accounts, and transmitting inaccurate financial reports.

We appreciate the October 30, 2015, decision of the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and National Planning to order the revocation of the decision to issue notice of de-registration. At the same time, we are concerned that this attempt to deregister KHRC and other NGOs is part of a larger campaign of systemic legal or administrative measures to discredit, repress, and prevent independent civil society organizations from undertaking legitimate human rights work in Kenya. Within the past two years, the NGO Board has proposed four sets of amendments to the Public Benefits Act (PBO Act 2013), which, among other changes, have sought to cap foreign funding to 15 percent, undermine self-regulation, and impose excessive national executive regulation. Additionally, in December 2014, the Board de-registered 540 organisations, although it quickly reinstated 179 organisations after they proved they were in full compliance. In June 2015, upon the recommendation of the Board, the Government froze the accounts of human rights organisations Haki Africa and MUHURI. Less than two months later, the High Court found that the two organisations had no case to answer and lifted the ban on the accounts.

We, the undersigned denounce the harassment of KHRC and other NGOs in Kenya, which seems to aim at preventing them from carrying out their legitimate human rights work. We also wish to express concern about a larger pattern of government actions that appear to be designed to limit the space and work of civil society in Kenya. To that end, we would like to draw your attention to widely recognized international standards regarding the protection of human rights defenders. 

First, we wish to recall Kenya’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Kenya is party, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association with others. We also remind Your Excellency of the important role of NGOs and human rights defenders in ensuring the fulfilment of human rights, as recognized in Resolution 22/6 of the UN Human Rights Council recognized in 2013. Under the aforementioned Resolution, Kenya bears an obligation “to create a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity” and to ensure “that legislation affecting the activities of human rights defenders and its application [is] consistent with international human rights law.” The Resolution also calls on States to ensure that they do “not discriminatorily impose restrictions on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of human rights defenders.”

In addition, the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and establishes that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise [of] rights.”

Under the Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Association of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the regulation of the exercise of freedom of association must be consistent with State's obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Understanding freedom of association to include NGO activity, the Resolution establishes that interference with this right that is not proportionate and cannot be justified under Article 27 of the Charter is considered to be arbitrary.  Finally, Resolution 119 of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission reminds States of their obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and “urges States Parties to take all the necessary measures to ensure to all human rights defenders an environment conducive to carrying out their activities without fear of any acts of violence, threats, reprisals, discrimination, pressure and any arbitrary acts by State or non State actors as a result of their human rights activities.”

Therefore, we urge you, and all other relevant Kenyan authorities to take the following actions:

  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological security and integrity of the members of KHRC, as well as of all human rights defenders in Kenya;
  2. Refrain from any legal or administrative measures against the KHRC and their members, or against any other human rights organisation in Kenya, that prevent or hinder legitimate human rights work, including but not limited to: threatened or actual deregistration of human rights NGOs; the introduction of laws or policies limiting funding or access to resources; restrictions on freedom of movement; and any harassment and intimidation of persons working for NGOs;
  3. Acknowledge the important role played by civil society in promoting tolerance in the struggle against violent extremism and ensure an enabling environment in which human rights defenders and civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, and
  4. Comply with all the provisions of the ICCPR, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6 of 2014; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Association, and Resolution 119 of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.



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