15 June 2012
Nairobi, Kenya – Lawyers and other human rights defenders (HRDs) are often directly targeted when they speak out against local authorities who are at times responsible for human rights violations. To fight against this situation Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) and its partner the East Africa Law Society (EALS) have launched a major project supporting and protecting human rights in five African countries, including Kenya.
Although important efforts are being made towards democratization in Central and East Africa, the situation for HRDs remains a concern: intimidation, threats, abductions, arrests, “false” criminal proceedings and murders are common practices used against the HRDs. However, the situation of HRDs can be improved if they have access to legal aid, financial and material support, and a protection fund. This is the objective of the project implemented in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda by ASF and EALS. “The challenge is twofold,” says Sophie Brondel, the project coordinator for ASF. “We aim to provide short term responses but also long term solutions. Additionally, this project aims to address the specific contexts of each country, within the framework of a regional strategy.”
Last May, ASF and EALS organized a seminar in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, thus ending a first series of seminars held since the beginning of the year in each country covered by the project. Bringing together civil society organizations, journalists, lawyers and other institutions, the objective of this workshop was to review the situation of HRDs in Kenya and as well as the way forward. Among other issues, the level of impunity and the lack of accountability for human rights violations are major challenges. “Through these exchanges, we want to identify common ground as well as a plan of action with the network of human rights defenders that already exists in Kenya” adds Sophie Brondel.
In addition to hosting the event, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) actively participated in its organization. Eric Mutua, the Chairman of the LSK, welcomed the initiative: “This is the first attempt to bring specific support to lawyers in the country. Kenyan lawyers, while sometimes at risk in their own country, are at the forefront in defending HRDs in the neighboring countries.”
Copyright pictures ASF