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7 April 2009

Kenya’s law enforcement agencies have engaged in systematic intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders who have assisted the United Nations in reporting on human rights violations in the country, according to a statement issued today by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston.

“Dozens of prominent and respected human rights defenders have been targeted in a blatant campaign designed to silence individual monitors and instil fear in civil society organizations at large”, Mr. Alston said.

Significant numbers have been forced into hiding within Kenya or exile in other countries. He characterized the behaviour of the Kenyan police and military in this regard as violating the most basic rules governing the treatment of United Nations fact-finding missions. “Non-cooperation with a United Nations mission is one thing”, said Mr. Alston, “but making threats against those that have provided information to the United Nations, as well as harassing their families, is quite another”.

“All indications seem to point to the fact that the campaign has been carefully coordinated within the Government”, the Special Rapporteur said. “Individuals from many different civil society groups across the country have been targeted, threatening telephone messages have been left for a wide range of prominent public figures, and the security forces have made repeated visits and threats to the family members of those who have fled”, he added.

The Special Rapporteur noted that there has been no substantive response to complaints registered by the United Nations, and no critical statements have been made by the President, Mwai Kibaki, the Internal Security Minister, George Saitoti, or others who exercise control over the security forces. In addition, offers of help from the FBI to investigate assassinations for which the police appear to have been responsible have been rebuffed.

Mr. Alston called upon the Government of Kenya to immediately issue instructions to both the police and military to cease and desist from acts of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and to make public the text of such instructions. “The international community cannot stand by as Kenya responds to findings highlighting human rights violations by unleashing an attack on those struggling to document and respond to such violations”, he said.

For further information, please contact Sarah Knuckey, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions: sarah.knuckey@nyu.edu; + 1.212.992.8873; +1.917.685.9098.


For use of information media; not an official record