Kenya: New Security Laws Exploit Terror Threat to Infringe Human Rights

Kenya: New Security Laws Exploit Terror Threat to Infringe Human Rights - Civic Space

A billboard featuring President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kiswahili slogan that translates as: 'security starts with me, security starts with you'. In the context of rising insecurity, crime and terrorist attacks he urges the public to take the initiative and responsibility and report any suspicious person, movement or detail to the security services.

Today (18th December 2014), the Kenyan Parliament will consider passing the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014.

If passed, the bill would amend a number of different laws and violate Kenya’s obligation under international human rights law. Worryingly, the Kenyan government is seeking a fast-tracked adoption of the Bill on the back of recent terrorist attacks in the country. Far from introducing only minor amendments, the Bill makes several substantive amendments to the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Evidence Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and National Services Act, among others. It also creates sweeping surveillance powers for the authorities.

The Kenyan Government seems to have taken the old adage ‘never let a good emergency go to waste’ to extreme levels. Whilst security concerns in Kenya are very real, the Kenyan Government is seeking the approval of this Bill on a fast-tracked timetable without having made the case as to why new legislation is necessary at such short notice.

We sincerely hope the Kenyan Parliament will reject the Bill and ensure that any legislation designed to address threats of terrorism fully meet international standards.

We believe that the Kenyan government has failed to make the case for the Bill to be examined in such a rushed way. In our view, the Bill contains numerous provisions that are in breach of international human rights standards and deserve full parliamentary scrutiny. You can read about our key areas of concern are here.

We note that the Kenyan government already passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the National Intelligence Service Act in 2012. It is unclear what new offences or powers the authorities need that they do not already have. In any event, it is incumbent on the government to make the case for new sweeping investigatory powers, in particular as regards communications surveillance.