10 July 2012

Kenya: Muslim Leaders Pile Pressure Over Anti-Terror Bill

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Mosque in Nairobi: Muslim leaders have vowed to oppose an anti-terror bill unless certain amendments are made to safeguard human rights.

Nairobi — Muslim leaders and human rights lobby groups under the umbrella of the Muslims for Human Rights have vowed never to support the proposed Prevention of Terrorism Bill of 2012 until contentious clauses are amended.

The leaders who spoke at a forum in Nairobi said the Bill is not acceptable in its current state.

Human rights crusader Hassan Omar Hassan said unless the proposed legislation is amended, rights of Kenyans risk being violated blatantly by law enforcers in the name of fighting terrorism.

"We have seen several reports implicating the police as being very corrupt; how then can we trust them with more power? They will violate it, and that is why we want the Bill amended," Hassan said.

He raised issue with a clause which grants immunity to police officers in the course of counterterrorism work.

"How then do we expect justice for Kenyans, there must be comprehensive reforms for the police," he said.

Nominated Member of Parliament Sheikh Mohammed Dor who also heads the council of Imams and Sheikhs in Kenya too said the Bill is retrogressive.

"We have made it clear that we will not support the Bill unless it is amended. We support the government in fighting terrorism but enough must be done in ensuring the Bill recognises and caters for the rights of the people," he said.

Muslim Human Rights activist Al Amin Kimathi who was moderating the session told of the humiliation he underwent in the hands of security agents when he was accused of being a terrorist.

Two weeks ago, the Association of Muslim Organisations in Kenya proposed changes on three key clauses for them to support the Bill.

Among the changes they want is the definition of terrorism as outlined in the Bill to ensure security forces do not end up harassing people in the name of fighting terror.

"Any act that intimidates the public or a section of the public is considered an act of terrorism, it is in our view that the definition (be) redefined to include specific activities," Director General of the group Fazul Mahamed said when they presented a memorandum to the Internal Security Ministry.

The group of leaders also wants the Bill to guarantee the respect of human rights to terror suspects in the country.

"The suspects must be guaranteed representation. None of their basic rights should be infringed," Mahamed said.

The group said it worried about the clause in the Bill that gives powers to the security forces to tap communication of suspected terrorists.

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