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Exempt lawyers, IPOA from curfew, Amnesty urges

NAIROBI
By Hillary Orinde | April 16th 2020

Amnesty International executive director Houghton Irungu at a past event. He has said the success of the curfew will depend on the collaboration between various agencies. [File, Standard]

A human rights lobby wants lawyers enlisted as critical and essential service providers during the curfew period.

Amnesty International on Thursday urged the Interior ministry to fast track their exemption from the curfew following a court ruling.

Justice Weldon Korir, in a case filed by the Law Society of Kenya contesting the curfew, directed that lawyers and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) be added to the list of "essential services providers" within the next five days.

Essential service providers are allowed to move around between the 7pm-5am curfew imposed to control the spread of coronavirus. Currently, the State has enlisted 13 of such groups deemed to be providing basic services.

Amnesty International says they support the move as it will provide needed oversight to the police enforcing the curfew.

"It will not just assist in cases where individual police officers have carried out acts of brutality or violence but it will also assist with the rising trends of gender based violence that we are seeing in home," the agency’s executive director Houghton Irungu told Standard Digital.

He said they had recorded numerous cases of people not getting legal representation when they are arrested during the curfew period.  

"We ask the Ministry of Interior to extend the list of essential services to include lawyers and IPOA"

Irungu added that the success of the curfew and any possible future lockdown depended on the collaboration between civic leaders and authorities.

"It will encourage compliance with the curfew, reduce human rights violations and deepen the professionalism of the Service where it has been lacking," he said.

Yesterday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe accused rights lobbies of turning a blind eye to brutalities meted on police officers.

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"In instances where the police have overstepped themselves, we have seen condemnation from all sorts of organisation. I thought that for once I was going to see them condemn those who are misbehaving with the police," Kagwe said.

Irungu, however, holds that human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, do not support violence on police officers and have been calling on civilians to follow State guidelines.

"We have been very consistent that these measures are important to flatten the infection curve as the nation needs to rally behind these provisions," he said.

He added that they have been clear in urging civilians not to resist curfew guidelines and should not violate the instructions to wear masks or to keep the required physical distances.

Irungu added in the same breath, they have condemned actions by civilians that threaten police officers and were on record calling for Personal Protective Equipment for the officers.

"We take the side that says both civilians and the police must follow the rule of law and must desist from any violent action," he said, adding that they would hold the police officers to a higher standard as they are state officers.

The apologies by the President and senior police officers coupled with the interdiction of four guilty officers, according to Irungu, has reduced the cases of police brutality.

He called on the State and the human rights groups to remain vigilant as cases of brutality were still being recorded, latest being reported on April 12.

Irungu implored the police to follow the seven-part policing guideline released by Amnesty International last week to ensure "the police work within a framework that does not see the kind of violence they have been witnessing."

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