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UN Special Rapporteurs call for Bill rejection

03 December 2013, 20:59

Nairobi - A group of United Nations Special Rapporteurs have urged the government to reject legislation that they argued would impose severe restrictions on civil society.

The contentious Bill, which was presented to Parliament on October 30, would amend Kenya's Public Benefit Organisation Act of 2012 and grant the Government sweeping and potentially arbitrary powers to deny registration for such organizations, including non-governmental organisations.

It would also cap foreign funding at 15 percent of their total budgets and channel all their funding through a government body, rather than going directly to beneficiary organisations.

"The amendments to the regulations of associations contained in the draft law could have profound consequences for civil society organizations in Kenya, including for those involved in human rights work, and could deter individuals from expressing dissenting views," the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, stated on Tuesday evening.

The expert called on the Kenyan authorities to immediately suspend the legislative process of the Bill, and to re-evaluate it in line with international human rights norms and standards, and urge them to further
consult civil society in a meaningful way, and pay due attention to their concerns.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, noted that "The proposed amendments lack clarity and could lead to restrictive interpretations that would unduly limit the rights to freedom of association, and opinion and expression."

He said the draft law included vague provisions that provide broad discretional power to the body designated to regulate associations, which may impose "from time to time [.] terms and conditions for the grant of
certificates of registration, permits of operation and public benefits organization status."

The Special Rapporteurs drew special attention to the provisions on funding of associations, which create administrative barriers to accessing funding, compromise associations' independence and run counter to international law and best practices.

"The Statute Law Bill prescribes ceilings that unduly restrict foreign funding for civil society organizations and refers to 'external donors' and 'overseas development assistance' without specifying the difference.
The Bill is an evidence of a growing trend in Africa and elsewhere, whereby governments are trying to exert more control over independent groups using so-called 'NGO laws," the experts jointly stated.

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

- CAJ News


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