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Human rights groups call for release of arrested protestors


A police officer pursues a protestor along Kenyatta avenue on Tuesday, June 18,2024. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Twenty-one human rights and governance organizations have demanded for immediate and unconditional release of all arrested protestors and observers.

The organizations under the Police Reforms Working Group Kenya (PRWG-Kenya) condemned the mass arrests of 210 peaceful protestors, journalists and human rights activists protesting against the Finance Bill.

“The right to peaceful assembly and protest is enshrined under Article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. The right to speak on public affairs is vital for any democratic and accountable society,” reads a joint statement by the human rights groups.

The organisations called out police officers for the use of excessive force and intimidation of civilians who participated in the #OccupyParliament protests on Tuesday.

“We call on the National Police Service to uphold their duty to protect and respect the rights of Kenyan citizens to assemble peacefully. The use of excessive force and intimidation must cease immediately."

“Violation of privacy through physical searches and arbitrary arrests is an outright infringement of the constitutional rights of the people of Kenya,” reads the statement.

According to the organisations, the National Police Service acted in blatant disregard for the people’s rights to silence opposition through force and intimidation.

The organisations including Defenders Coalition, Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Katiba Institute, HAKI Africa, Amnesty International Kenya, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Transparency International Kenya, Shield For justice and Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCW) said the National Police Service should instead facilitate and safeguard the right to protest.

The human rights groups said protestors should be allowed to express their views without fear of arrest or violence.

“The actions witnessed today are not only a violation of human rights but also a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and freedom in Kenya,”

“We stand in solidarity with all those who bravely exercised their right to protest and call on all Kenyans to join us in demanding accountability and respect for our constitutional rights,” reads the statement.

Defenders Coalition Executive Director Kamau Ngugi said the protestors had notified relevant authorities regarding their plans to hold peaceful protests.

“The Defenders Coalition and other human rights organizations have deployed teams to actively monitor the exercise of this right and document the National Police Service's response to the planned peaceful protests,” said Ngugi.

Ngugi said the constitution guarantees Kenyans rights to assemble, picket and present petitions to public authorities and that they should not be harassed for expressing their discontent over the tax increase proposals in Finance Bill 2024.

 “We call on the authorities to uphold the Constitution of Kenya and to refrain from any form of lawlessness, impunity, and violence against peaceful protestors. We also urge citizens participating in the #OccupyParliament and #RejectFinanceBill2024 protests to be peaceful and to document any form of human rights violations that they might encounter.

Other organisations include Kariobangi Paralegal Network, The Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya), the International Justice Mission (IJM-K), , Women Empowerment Link, Social Welfare Development Program (SOWED),  Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA- Kenya),  International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ - Kenya).

Others are Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCW), Wangu Kanja Foundation,  Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO), Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice (KPTJ) and Peace Brigades International Kenya. (PBI Kenya).

“The Police Reforms Working Group is documenting the situation closely, providing direct support to those affected and already exploring legal action for redress.”

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