Kenya security agents warned against human rights violations ahead of elections

KNCHR commissioners address the press ahead of the August 8, 2017 polls in Kenya. Photo by NHRI.

Amid fears of use of excessive force during and after the 2017 General Election, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has asked security agents to act within the law in protecting the dignity of life.

KNCHR Chair Person Kagwira Mbogori said the Constitution of Kenya and other legal provisions remain in force even on elections, therefore, no one should be disefrachised as security agents handle  crowds during and after the August 8, 2017 General Election.

“The Commission asks the Inspector General of Police and all security actors to strictly comply with the constitutional provisions under Article 244 that call for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The use of excessive force and firearms is illegal and will be on the ground in partnership with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to monitor the conduct of all officers who operate contrary to this. The Commission, therefore, calls upon the security actors to facilitate the constitutional right of every Kenyan to peacefully and unarmed demonstrate, assemble and picket,” she said.

On the use of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in reinforcing the police force in maintaining order, Ms Mbogori said this should only be done in accordance with the law.

KDF’s major role is defending the country against external enemies and protecting the territorial boundary of Kenya. Internal deployment of this force for security reasons has to be approved by Parliament and other provisions as provided in the law.

While urging Kenyans to go home and wait for the results after voting, the KNCHR Vice Chair George Morara said banning of peaceful demonstrations – as it has been announced by Kisumu County police boss – is unwarranted and against the freedoms of assembly and picketing.

Some candidates have been asking their supporters to camp at the polling stations to guard against alleged electoral malpractices.

But the Elections Act allows for one agent per party to be ta the polling station after accreditation from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). No groupings or gatherings are allowed within a radius of 400m from a polling station.

“The Commission calls upon all security actors to strictly comply with the laid down laws when undertaking crowd control management to ensure that human rights violations like the excessive use of force or firearms, arbitrary arrests, torture, and gender based violence are not witnessed during the polling day and thereafter,” he said.

Besides deploying 139 staff to 37 out of the 47 counties in Kenya, the commission is also running a monitoring centre that will be open through Tuesday until the final results are announced.

While acknowledging the step of allowing prisoners to vote for the first time, KNCHR asked IEBC to remain true to the oath of office in polling, management and announcing of the results.

The Commission said vulnerable persons in society including the persons with disability, the elderly, the expectant women, nursing mothers, the sick to be adequately facilitated to cast their ballots.

The commission also asked the candidates to celebrate victory with respect to their opponents; and the losers to accept defeat with dignity.

Many people have moved to rural homes for fear of eruption of violence as it happened aftert the 2007 polls.

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