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Kenya: Arrest and beating of seven human rights defenders, including Ms Ruth Mumbi
Please take action on behalf of 7 members of Bunge la Mwananchi who were arrested and beaten in Kenya.
Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of human rights defenders in Kenya
President Uhuru Kenyatta
Office of the President
PO Box 30510
On the morning of 15 October 2013, the Kenyan police arrested seven members of Bunge la Mwananchi on suspicion of illegal assembly as they were protesting a 16% tax increase on commodities.
Amongst those arrested was human rights defender Ms Ruth Mumbi, as well as Messrs Francis Sakwa, John Koome, Winfred Olal, Chris Michael, Frederick Odhiambo, and John Korir, the current president of Bunge la Mwananchi. The protesters were beaten at the scene and detained for approximately four hours before being released without charge.
Ruth Mumbi is a community activist, founder and current National Coordinator for Bunge la Wamama (The Women's Parliament), a female branch of the Bunge la Mwananchi movement (The People's Parliament). Both groups carry out campaigns and advocacy on social justice issues. Ruth Mumbi was also a finalist for the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders at risk.
On the morning of 15 October 2013, Ruth Mumbi and several colleagues from Bunge la Mwananchi assembled in downtown Nairobi with plans to protest against the V.A.T. (Value-Added Tax) Act, which was adopted in September 2012 and has the potential to overburden Kenya's poor.
The seven aforementioned human rights defenders were severely beaten by police before being escorted to Nairobi's Central police station, where their belongings were confiscated and they were detained for approximately four hours. The police officers who arrested them indicated that they were being held for organising an illegal assembly. No further details were provided to them during the arrest.
Upon their release, the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) reportedly announced that, "in the aftermath of the Westgate attack, we don't allow people to assemble". This was a reference to the armed attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi between 21 and 24 September 2013 when 72 people were reportedly killed.
On 14 October 2013, a delegation of the demonstrators had visited the same police station to inform the police of their intention to demonstrate, and the police issued a verbal acknowledgement of the protest. Under Article 37 of the 2010 Constitution, Kenyans are granted “the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.” No form of prior authorisation is required under the law. Iexpress serious concern at the arrest and severe beating of human rights defender Ruth Mumbi and her colleagues at Bunge la Mwananchi, and at the breach of the right to peaceful assembly enshrined in Kenya's Constitution and international law.
I urge the authorities in Kenya to:
Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the arrest, assault and detention of human rights defenders Ruth Mumbi, Francis Sakwa, John Koome, Winfred Olal, Chris Michael, Frederick Odhiambo, and John Korir, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ruth Mumbi and all members of Bunge la Mwananchi;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kenya are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including police violence and judicial harassment.