Police brutality a continuing crisis in Kenya

Peaceful Assembly

According to Human Rights Watch, Kenyan police continue to kill crime suspects and protesters in cold blood despite persistent calls to end extra judicial killings and the use of excessive force. Between 25th December 2019 and February 2020, the organisation documented the deaths of at least eight people living in Nairobi’s informal settlements, all shot dead by the police. The killings were the latest in a longstanding pattern of excessive force and unlawful killings in Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods, including against participants in street demonstrations and protests. In all cases Human Rights Watch documented, the police did not report the killings or initiate the process for an inquest, as required by law.

On 15th January 2020, at least one person was killed and dozens injured when demonstrators clashed with police in Kasarani district, north-east of Nairobi, while protesting against the poor state of the main road in the area. Police used water cannon and tear gas in response to demonstrators who burnt tyres, dumped stinking rubbish and blocked all roads. 

Expression

In early March 2020, the High Court dismissed a petition by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) which challenged the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018. The bill, which was signed into law in May 2018, aims to address crimes committed through electronic devices and online platforms.

As previously reported on the Monitor, In May 2018, The High Court in Nairobi temporarily suspended 26 sections of the Bill, after a petition by BAKE who argued that they contained provisions which deny, infringe upon and threaten the freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom and security of the person, right to privacy, right to property and the right to a fair hearing. In its latest decision however, the High Court found that the law was valid in its entirety, and that the 26 previously suspended sections were constitutional. BAKE announced that they would appeal the recent decision to dismiss their petition as they maintain that several provisions of the law are unconstitutional and infringe on fundamental freedoms.

In mid-March 2020, the Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) expressed its serious concerns about accusations levelled against the media by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), a body constitutionally mandated to protect independent journalism. MCK had accused Kenyan media of “betrayal of public interest”, violating the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya, and claimed that there was a growing pattern of screaming headlines without corresponding and appropriate content. KEG condemned the statement and described MCK as “out of control,” overstepping its mandate, and a threat to media freedom. According to KEG, although MCK is the regulator of media in Kenya, this in no way grants it a right to interfere with editorial independence. KEG demanded that MCK present evidence on which its statement is based or withdraw the statement and apologise to the media, journalists and other Kenyans.

Association

In early March 2020, the Kenyan National Assembly’s Labour and Social Welfare Committee rejected a bill that sought to restrict to five days the right to strike for workers who provide essential services. It also rejected a legislative proposal that would have required the workers to take a poll before proceeding to strike. In its decision, the Committee noted that some of the bill’s provisions violated the rights of workers to go on strike and also noted that penalties proposed for workers and union officials were not commensurate with the offences committed. The Bill targets nurses, doctors, air traffic controllers, sanitation workers, meteorologists, marine and port navigational workers and electricity and telecommunication services workers.