By Adv. Kavutha Mutua
The Unit successfully took lead in shadow reporting in the just concluded 4th Periodic review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Through collaboration from various civil society organizations, the shadow report was compiled in response to the List of Issues by the Committee and was officially launched on 26th February 2021. Shadow reporting is a useful way for Non-Governmental Organizations to improve the effectiveness of the UN treaty reporting process and also ensure that their issues regarding the implementation of the concerned treaty are addressed.
The ICCPR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The ICCPR is monitored by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the United Nations Human Rights Council), which reviews regular reports of States parties on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Covenant and then whenever the Committee requests (usually every four years). The Committee normally meets in Geneva and normally holds three sessions per year.
Kenya ratified the ICCPR on 1st May 1972 and came into force on 23rd March 1976. As part of the obligations under the convention in Article 40, Kenya has submitted 4 periodic reports with the most recent being 28th December 2018. When a State Party is reviewed by the UNHRC, the State must describe how it has implemented the obligations of the Convention and the Committee will make recommendations for further necessary reforms to enable better implementation.
The 4th Review was very unique as it was done virtually for the first time. During the informal session held on 8th March 2021, Kevin Mwangi from IMLU was able to present a statement on behalf of various civil societies highlighting the key issues that were captured in the Shadow Report. Some of the key issues that the Unit was keen on following up on was;
1.) The need for the state to fully implement the Prevention of Torture Act and the National Coroners Service Act of 2017 to ensure that perpetrators of torture and extrajudicial killings are held accountable.
2.) Need for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by Kenya.
3.) The need to have a moratorium in place to ensure the conversion of all death sentences of life imprisonment as decided by the court and eventually remove the same completely from the penal code.
During the formal briefing held on 10th March 2021, the State was able to respond briefly to the issues raised. On the non-implementation of the National Coroner’s Service Act, the state highlighted that an Implementation Committee had been set up by the Attorney General to ensure full operalization of the same. On Non-implementation of the Prevention of Torture Act, the state responded to the Human Rights Committee that the act was being reviewed to cure the issue of sections overriding other provisions of law. The team also stated that a rapid response guide had been developed and a guideline on the draft charge sheets developed as a guidance tool, especially for the prosecutors. The IMLU team was keen on the above response having spearheaded the drafting of the two Acts.
The Human Rights Committee commended Kenya for the huge strides made but highlighted the need to make more efforts in dealing with issues of the Right to life, excessive use of force, forced evictions and gender-based violence.
The Unit is grateful to the Organizations that were involved in the shadow reporting process and ensured its success including; Haki Africa-Mombasa; Kenya Human Rights Commission; Law Society of Kenya; Legal Resources Foundation Trust; Defenders Coalition; National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Refugee Consortium of Kenya; Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Faraja Foundation; International Centre for Transitional Justice; Stop the Traffik; Federation of Women Lawyers- Kenya, Transparency International and Article 19 East Africa.