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New Kenya security law undermines rights

Kenya's far-reaching new security law undermines fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the 2010 Kenyan constitution and international human rights law.

“Laws that violate fundamental rights and are open to abuse by security forces aren't the right solution to Kenya's security crisis,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Protecting security and human rights at the same time is not contradictory, and Kenya's leaders should reconsider their course.”

The law, passed by parliament on December 18, 2014, and signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 19, expands the search, seizure, and surveillance powers of the National Intelligence Service, curbs media and speech freedoms, and limits the rights of arrested and accused persons. It also flouts Kenya's obligations toward refugees and asylum seekers, forcing them into camps and capping the number allowed in Kenya, in violation of international law.

The Kenyan government claims the new legislation is needed to respond to increased attacks in different parts of the country in 2014. Areas affected by the recent attacks include the coast, where attacks by the Somali Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab killed 87 in June and July, and in the northeast, where two back-to-back incidents in Mandera in November and December resulted in 64 dead.

Human Rights Watch, independent media, and other human rights groups have documented serious crimes by Kenya's security forces, including the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit. To date, the government has failed to acknowledge or investigate the allegations.

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