(Washington, D.C. | December 19th, 2014)

Kerry Kennedy and Santiago A. Canton, on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, condemn the recent restrictions imposed on civil society in Kenya, namely the Security Law (Amendment) Act, which was signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier today.

The Kenyan government deregistered over 500 NGOs earlier this week, due in part to allegations that the groups were funding terrorist activities and for the “failure to file audit reports.” Both domestic and international observers believe that these actions are meant to stifle the legitimate activities of democratic actors, including human rights groups, and in particular, those that helped support the recently concluded investigation by the International Criminal Court into alleged crimes against humanity committed by President Kenyatta.

“The mass deregistration of NGOs in Kenya, in conjunction with the new security law, radically restricts civil space under the dubious guise of counter-terrorism,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Kenya is viewed as a standard bearer in the region, and these developments undermine the country’s reputation, setting a negative example for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in the respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The Security Law (Amendment) Act comes in the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks that killed 64 people in Kenya, as well as the Westgate shopping mall attack in 2013. The new law, however, violates a range of fundamental civil liberties, including the right to freedom of expression and right to be tried within a reasonable time. It also violates international law by only allowing a limited number of refugees and asylum seekers to remain in the country and contravenes international standards for pre-trial detention, as the new law potentially permits authorities to detain citizens for up to 360 days without charge.

“The new restrictions imposed on media and civil society groups in Kenya sends a strong signal to other governments in the region that unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression is legitimate when couched in terms of combating terrorism,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “Widespread restrictions on the work of civil society organization undermines the essence of democracy”.

Kenya is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which protects both the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association under Articles 9 and 10. Article 9 protects both the dissemination of ideas and the right to receive information. Additionally, under Article 10, restrictions to freedom of association, including NGO registration requirements, are illegal if they exceed the necessary response required in order to achieve the purpose of its limitation.


Jeffrey Smith
Program Officer, Africa
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Phone: +1.202.463.7575 (ext. 254)

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