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Deal with the past, Pillay urges Kenyans

UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay delivered a keynote speech at the University of Nairobi, Kenya focusing on the importance of justice and accountability for serious crimes to ensure social cohesion.

UN Human Rights speaking at the University of Nairobi © University of NairobiThe address closed a three-day visit in the Kenyan capital where the High Commissioner also held meetings with top Government officials and parliamentarians, as well as with Kenya’s National Commission for Human Rights and civil society.

Earlier in the week in Kampala, Uganda, Pillay had participated in a discussion on the review of the Rome Statute, which instituted the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is currently investigating the gravest events that took place in Kenya between end 2007 and beginning 2008 in the wake of the presidential elections. However, the UN Human Rights chief noted that the probable exercise of ICC jurisdiction does not relieve Kenyan authorities from carrying out effective investigations of allegations of serious crimes.

Pillay welcomed the fact that Kenya is now tackling the challenges posed by its recent turmoil on two crucial fronts: through institutional reform, in particular, with a new Constitution, as well as with processes that are meant to foster societal cohesion.

“The pillars of such a momentous process must be a charter that enshrines the vision and aspirations of all Kenyans, a justice system that promptly and fairly redresses grievances when the law is challenged by acts of commission or omission, a robust system of checks and balances on executive power, vehicles that promote harmonious relations among communities, as well as a vibrant civil society”, the High Commissioner said.

“I urge the Government to carry out serious investigations in all cases of abuse and violence and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.  Particular attention must be paid to cases of sexual attacks”, Pillay added.  “Accountability for past and current abuses should be the rule, rather than the exception. But let me state unequivocally that the best strategy is prevention of violence.  I exhort the Government to do its utmost and exercise maximum foresight in order to protect the vulnerable.”

9 June 2010