By Hassan Omar Hassan
Does it traumatise you? In clearing former Industrialisation minister and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey against corruption allegations, the no-holds-barred justice Nicholas Ombija averred, “I regret to say that it was a case of bad blood between the minister and the Permanent Secretary (Karanja Kibicho). It was a case of settling scores and the charges should have been dismissed”. Saddening, shocking and reminiscent of a nation of pseudo technocrats. Malicious in every dimension.
This finding of a court requires sanctions. We must safeguard the integrity of public institutions and the decorum and conduct of State officers. It is wrong and immoral to ‘spillover’ bad blood to such extents of victimisation or vendetta.
Often time during my tenure at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), we reaffirmed the doctrine of the “presumption of innocence”. We reiterated every person’s right to due process. We advocated for reforms in public institutions with investigative mandate, particularly the police and the need to regulate and check such powers and mandate. But more critically we tried to sensitise the citizenry on the need for fair treatment of all suspects and the need to respect of the rights of all human beings.
Suspicion in Kenya often amounts to guilt. In Kenya, a suspect is guilty until proven otherwise. In the realm of public opinion, a suspect has no rights and all forms of derogations or abrogation are ‘justified’. The wisdom and the affirmations of the Constitution though renders public opinion null and void in the domain of rights. All else is subject to inherent rights and freedoms of an individual.
It is for this reason that once again I wish to venture in the often emotive subject of terrorism suspects. Convenient as it may appear to trample on the rights of these suspects, the obligation of human rights actors is to secure the adherence to the code of rights as stipulated in the Constitution. As much as conventional wisdom appears of thrust us towards violation, the Constitution is cold and unbending to its dictates.
n Kenya, the situation is compounded not only by the lack of consciousness of these rights, but the state of fear that exists. Give me a fearful citizenry and I shall suspend the Katiba at will. We must be courageous in the face of terrorism. But it requires more courage to demonstrate the strength of our values and the independence and objectivity of our institutions at the face of adversity.
While at the KNCHR, the commission’s position was that police or the general security sector reforms was a condition precedent for the enactment of any counter-terrorism legislation. One report after another has illustrated the police force is the most corrupt institution in Kenya. You do not give the most corrupt and the most unaccountable more power. This position still reflects my current position on the counter-terrorism legislation.
Our nation might be in a state of fear, but we must stand true to the ideals and values of our Constitution. The treatment of recent terrorist bombing suspects and the two Iranians suspected of possession of explosive materials not only leaves a lot to be desired, but best demonstrates the concerns of the Muslim and human rights communities.
And imagine the Henry Kosgey kind of a situation. And what recourse do victims of State persecution have? While committing to combating terrorism, I equally and unequivocally commit to the values and principles of the Constitution.