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Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) CEO, Bernard Mogesa (right) flanked by Kiambu Woman rep Gathoni wa Muchomba during the launch of taskforce policy, institutional and administrative reforms regarding intersex persons in Kenya on Monday, June 09 2018. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has decried the backlog of cases in Kenyan courts which it attributed to arrests made in a bid to enforce Covid-19 rules.

In its report released on Tuesday, the Commission has lamented the pile-up of cases which it considers to be one of the impediments to justice as the country battles coronavirus pandemic.

The report titled “Pain and Pandemic: Unmasking the State of Human Rights in Kenya in Containment of the Covid -19 Pandemic” and based on the study conducted between March 17 and June 6 has further made a raft of recommendations to handle human rights issues.

It has proposed a robust technological platform to speed up prosecution of cases.

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It partly reads: “The National Council on Administrative Justice continuously reviews actions and activities of court users to enhance access to justice. Specifically, enhance ICT services to Kenya Prisons Service to fast track remote hearing of cases to reduce the backlog that has been occasioned by the lockdown.”

“Additionally, ICT support to be given to the department of children services and the children courts to ensure evidence is secured and cases heard and determined in a timely manner.”

To avert the delays and pile-up of cases, the Commission has urged Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to prioritise cases related to the breaches of Covid-19 rules.

It is a plea which comes days after the Judiciary announced a transition to electronic case filing system on June 16. Dubbed e-filing, the Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi revealed that the new system would be useful in enabling those with cases to observe safety rules by avoiding travelling to the courts.

“Any computer or device that allows attachment of files will be sufficient to access the system and carry out the e-filing. The system is already open for use and the public is encouraged to familiarise itself with it prior to the official launch,” her statement read.

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In its report, the KNCHR has pointed out police brutality as one of the problems facing Kenyans during the Covid-19 period. The Commission said in its report that it had teamed up with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and had unearthed at least 90 cases stemming from police brutality. It, however, did not go deeper into the status of the registered cases.

“The Commission documented 10 cases of loss of life and 87 varied cases of inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement officers. The Commission has been working with partners especially the Independent Policing Oversight Authority in investigating and ensuring justice for victims,” the report partially reads.

The Commission lauded the efforts by the government to shelve the vulnerable in the society from the impacts of the coronavirus by providing a stipend to the elderly and families from informal settlements.

However, it stated that much still needs to be done as there are many complaints from People Living with Disability, who complain of being sidelined.  It also said that same complaints had come from the minority intersex group.

Rent headache

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With the end of a pandemic being a mystery, the KNHCR has highlighted in its report that many Kenyans had been evicted from their houses for lack house rent.

It further warned that the situation could get even worse given the silence of the government on the issue. It noted that most Kenyans are crying out for the government to come up with a subsidy towards house rent.

It stated: “With the dipping economy owing to Covid-19 and loss of livelihoods, the Commission in its monitoring efforts established and received concerns from citizens on the need for rental subsidies, and still wait to see whether the Government will have a policy that will save them from looming evictions as many start falling behind in payment of rent.”

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