Implementing Covid-19 rules exposes citizens to rights abuse

Monday, November 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Simon Katee, Juhudi Community Support Centre executive director in Mombasa.

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent imposition of restriction on movement during the night by the government has continued to expose rampant violation of human rights and total disregard of dignity.

In Kenya, human rights organisations are up in arms, this time, over what they term as increased human rights violations that are not only humiliating, but also undermining the health response to the Covid-19 fight.

In Mombasa, since the Covid-19 struck in March this year, Scores have lost lives due to police brutality while others have died as result of movement restrictions to hospitals during Curfew hours.

According to Pwani Social Justice Centre working group chairman, Simon Kazungu, reports of police enforcing curfew with excessive and at times lethal force are “deeply worrying cases.”

Speaking over the weekend during a human rights defenders’ conference held in Mombasa, Kazungu says in some scenarios, the government appears to be using Covid-19 as a cover for human rights violations, further restricting fundamental freedoms and civic space, thereby undermining the rule of law.

Kazungu observed that many organisations are struggling to get information on the government’s expenditures.

This, to him is a violation of rights of right to information. Restriction of movement and reduction of operations at the judicial courts is also to blame.

Key violation issues

Human rights defenders feel their civic space has been derailed by being denied  the freedom to picket on key human violations issues.

“We suspect there might be corruption manifestation in the counties during this period, but access to information especially on accountability by respective governments has been futile, this in itself is a violation of human rights,” Kazungu added.         

Simon Katee, Juhudi Community Support Centre executive director in Mombasa said the shrinking civic space that has affected demonstrations due to restrictions is said to be the biggest problem.

 “We as human rights defenders have seen the gap between police and civilians widen, there is a lot of human rights violations including brutality.

In a time like this when all people are feeling the heat of the pandemic, the government has taken advantage of that to violate human rights,” he said.

 During coronavirus curfew since March, Muslim for Human Rights (Muhuri) recorded three deaths resulting from the police force or attacks by a vigilante group receiving authority’s support.

Police on April 1, allegedly murdered a 22-year-old youth in Kwale after they savagely battered his head using a wooden club during coronavirus curfew.

Erick Ng’ethe’s murder occurred at 9 pm at the Nile Pub and Restaurant in Diani, Kwale where he worked as an accountant.

In another case, Police assaulted Hamisi Juma Idi Mwadungudu, 48, on the first day of the curfew, March 27

Islamic rituals.

He succumbed to injuries at Msambweni sub-county Referral Hospital, Kwale. Police beat him on his way home in Likoni, Mombasa some minutes after the curfew started.

Mwadungudu had dropped a pregnant woman at a local hospital. The family declined an autopsy because of their Islamic rituals.

 At least 62 Mombasa and Kilifi women have suffered intimate partner abuses, some serious, since April.

Many victims are yet to make official complaints because they fear reprisal attacks or due to restriction in movement, imposed by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Sungusungu, which is enforcing the dusk-to-dawn curfew, with backing from an area chief, attacked Ibrahim Omar on April 28, in Jomvu, resulting in his death.

According to the Muhuri report, the area chief ordered Omar to be buried hurriedly without a postmortem.

Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI)officers have since recorded statements from the deceased mother, Naomi Adet, and persons of interest.

Muhuri also recorded a statement with Adet and is pushing for the body to be exhumed and postmortem performed.

Another  case in Point happened on May 24, when over 20 police officers watched as hired youth demolished more than 100 non-permanent houses at Seven Star area of Utange, Kisauni sub-county.

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