24 September 2012

Kenya: Propose Changes to Terror Law - Wamalwa

Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa has advised anyone with concerns on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2012, to present them before the relevant parliamentary committees for consideration.

He argued that the law to tackle terror had been shelved for too long and it was important to set up a proper legal framework.

Wamalwa cited the recent bombings in the country that had left several people dead and property damaged, saying Kenyans could not afford to take things for granted.

"The terrorists are not going to wait for us. They say time and tide wait for no man; neither does terrorism. Let us move forward; let us see what amendments we can bring to address the concerns raised," he said.

"I want to invite all concerned to interact with us and ensure that this is addressed," he urged.

He also assuaged fears by Muslim leaders that the Bill would infringe on the rights of a section of Kenyans if passed as it is. Wamalwa maintained that the law would not target any religion.

"Terrorism knows no tribe; terrorism knows no religion and it respects no boundaries. We cannot fight it bare handed. We need tools and legal instruments with which to fight it," he argued.

However the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) maintained that the Bill infringed on the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and religion in addition to limiting the right to a fair trial.

LSK Chairman Eric Mutua noted that some sections of the law must be amended as they were retrogressive.

"Terrorism knows no tribe; terrorism knows no religion and it respects no boundaries. We cannot fight it bare handed. We need tools and legal instruments with which to fight it" - Wamalwa.

"There are three or four clauses in Part 4 that need further interrogation. One of them is the right to remain silent. It has been arrested by the need of an investigative officer to approach the court and get an order for a suspect to answer questions mandatorily and provide documents," he observed.

He added that the Bill also gave the Inspector General of Police powers to call for the prosecution of those suspected to have carried out terrorism acts saying that power should rest with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to avoid duplication of roles.

"There is also the issue of the Inspector General giving consent for the enactment of some things under the Act. We feel that it would be appropriate if we removed the issue of the Inspector General and leave the consent with the office of the DPP," he argued.

Muslim leaders want the Bill rejected, and have threatened to move to court if it is passed.

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