AG Muigai officially appeals suspension of Security Law
06 January 2015, 18:55
Nairobi - The Attorney General Githu Muigai has appealed the suspension of the controversial Security Laws amendments, saying that the High Court has no jurisdiction to suspend them.
The AG filed the appeal Tuesday afternoon, under a notice of urgency, arguing that High Court judge George Odunga was out of his depth in effecting the suspension.
The judge suspended 8 controversial sections of the law and directed that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga form a three judge bench to look at the matter in detail.
He said that the government had infringed on the basic rights of Kenyans in passing the law.
He added that there was also no order in parliament when the amendments to the bill were being passed as required by parliamentary Standing Orders.
The security bill was passed by parliament last month after a chaotic debate marked by brawls between governing coalition and opposition MPs, and was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
It hands the government sweeping powers, including the right to hold terror suspects for nearly a year without charge, and threatens journalists with up to three years behind bars if their reports "undermine investigations or security operations relating to terrorism".
The eight clauses suspended by the High Court include the threat to imprison journalists if they publish "insulting, threatening, or inciting material or images of dead or injured persons which are likely to cause fear and alarm to the general public", or "any information which undermines investigations or security operations."
This, said High Court Justice Odunga, "limits the freedom of expression".
Also suspended is the right for the prosecution to withhold certain evidence and a 150,000 ceiling on the number of refugees allowed into Kenya -- which would have led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and other conflict-hit countries in the region.
"In respect to the limiting the numbers of refugees to a maximum of 150,000... such amendments contravene international conventions and instruments," Justice Odunga said.
New definitions on what constitutes inciting and aiding terrorism, as well as police surveillance powers, have also been shelved.
The government argues the measures are necessary to confront a wave of attacks by Somalia's Al Shabaab insurgents, and that amendments giving the courts more oversight over the police and intelligence services make it constitutionally sound.
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