Kenya approves harsh anti-terrorism law

Kenya's parliament on Dec. 18 passed a sweeping new anti-terrorism law after some of its members engaged in a shoving match that led to blows being exchanged. Those opposed to the law, citing violations of free speech and other civil liberties, shouted, threw water, and even threw books at the Speaker in protest of the bill. The law allows security services to detain suspected criminals without charging them for up to 360 days, allows media members to be persecuted for publishing material that is likely to cause fear or alarm, and enables a domestic spy force to carry out secret operations. President Uhuru Kenyatta has backed the bill due to increased pressure to improve security in the country after a 2013 terrorist attack by Somali al-Shabaab rebels that killed 67 people.

From Jurist, Dec. 20. Used with permission.

  1. Kenya high court suspends sections of anti-terrorism law

    The High Court of Kenya [official website] on Jan. 2 suspended eight sections of the controversial new anti-terrorism law until a legal challenge by the opposition is heard by the court. The Security Laws (Amendment) Act of 2014 (PDF) was passed by the Kenyan Parliament two weeks ago and was promptly challenged on free speech and civil liberties grounds. The suspended sections include the clause allowing media figures to be prosecuted if they publish materials that would cause public fear or alarm and the clause permitting the National Intelligence Service to "enter any place or obtain access to anything" during authorized efforts to neutralize national terror threats. Justice George Odunga suspended these sections because they raise "substantial questions of law" under clause 3(b) and (d) of Article 165 of the Kenyan Constitution, which give the High Court the jurisdiction to determine if a freedom in the Bill of Rights has been violated and to hear any question regarding the interpretation of the constitution.

    From Jurist, Jan. 2. used with permission.

  2. Kenya high court strikes down portions of anti-terrorism law

    The Supreme Court of Kenya ruled Feb. 23 that eight sections of the nation's controversial anti-terrorism law are unconstitutional. The Security Laws (Amendment) Act No. 19 of 2014, which came into effect on Dec. 22, amended the provisions of 22 other acts of Parliament involving matters of national security. Restrictions on the media under section 12 of the new law were found to violate the freedom of expression and the media guaranteed under Articles 33 and 34 of the Kenyan Constitution. In addition, the court found that section 48 of the Security Laws, which amended the country's Refugee Act to limit the number of refuges and asylum seekers permitted to stay in Kenya, violated "the principle of non-refoulment as recognized under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees" which is part of the laws of Kenya under the Constitution.

    From Jurist, Feb. 23. Used with permission.

  3. Kenya to build border wall

    In the global craze for separation walls, it looks like Kenya is next. After the April 2 massacre of nearly 150 at Garissa University, Nairobi announced plans for a wall along border with Somalia to keep out al-Shabaab. Critics point out that the militants in the Garissa attack were from Kenya and not Somalia. (The Telegraph, April 22)

  4. Somali militants attack Kenyan police; Nairobi sends warplanes

    Presumed Islamist militants from Somalia attacked two police patrols in Kenya's Garissa County, sparking fierce gun battles. Somalia's al-Shabaab said they had killed 25 Kenyan officers, whiley the police force said one of its men had died and four had been wounded. Kenya has mobilized warplanes to the border area, where al-Shabaab has a visible presence in several villages. (Reuters, BBC News, BBC World Service)

  5. Deadly ‘security drill’ at Nairobi university

    A security drill at a Nairobi university led to the death of a staff member and seveeral students injured. Many panicked when security forces used what students thought was live ammunition to stage a mock attack on the school. Some of the troops were apparently dressed as Shabaab militants. The drill comes just months after a Shabab attack on Garissa University in Kenya's east left at least 147 students dead.  (Al Jazeera)

  6. Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in bus attack

    A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses. They told the militants "to kill them together or leave them alone", a local governor told Kenyan media. At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border. The Somali based al-Shabab group says it carried out the attack. The bus was travelling from the capital Nairobi to Mandera. (BBC News, Dec. 21)