Human Rights organizations have been asked to partner with law enforcement agencies to promote fairness and enhance access to justice for Kenyans.
Ms. Gloria Madengwa, an official with National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, said seeking justice for the poor and oppressed was the ultimate goal for human right defenders.
She said it is incumbent upon rights defenders to work closely with actors in the criminal justice system to enable the protection of the rights of their clients.
Speaking at Voi on Saturday during a sensitization workshop on the role of Community Service Orders (CSOs) in enhancing access to justice, Ms. Madengwa urged CSOs to focus on promoting ordinary citizens’ access to government services.
“Our role is to ensure we help the poor and the weak get access to justice by standing for their rights,” she said.
The meeting was attended by several human rights organizations working in Taita-Taveta County, officers from the judiciary, police and County government.
During the workshop, officials in human right groups complained of harassment, intimidation and threats by security organs in the region.
Mathenge Kamusu, a rights activist in Taveta, said land injustices have been the biggest cause of insecurity in the region and claimed powerful people were using the police to evict people from their farms.
He further pointed out that most activists were victims of trumped up charges by rogue police officers working at the behest of powerful forces with vested interests in land in the region.
“I have been arrested so many times for fighting for land rights and charged with incitement. Our complaints about rogue police officers have never been acted upon,” he claimed.
Ezra Mdamu, a Kasighau activist, said lack of unity of purpose amongst CSOs in fighting for the oppressed weakened their voices.
Ms. Madengwa asked the courts to be considerate of the accused’s financial background while setting bail terms, adding that her organization hires lawyers and even pays bail for human-right defenders arraigned in courts.
She however, said her coalition will not bail out rights’ defenders who violate laws.
“Even as we do our duties, we should always ensure we are protected by the law. If you engage in acts that are contrary to the law, we will not support you,” she said.
The Voi Deputy Police boss, Michael Ndonga said police were ready and willing to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure better services to the public, noting that both rights defenders and the police service serve the public interest and noted there was no need for antagonistic relationship between the two.
“We both serve the public and we should strive to ensure they get the best from both of us,” he said.
He added that complaints about a handful of police officers’ inaction and misconduct should not be misconstrued as meaning the entire police force was rogue.
Ndonga urged the rights defenders to seek audience with senior police officers for redress about matters they felt were not being handled properly.
“If one feel his case is not being handled well, it is good to inform the senior officer who might not know about the case. That is better than demonizing the police service,” he said.
The rights groups said they would organize for special meetings with police bosses in the region to iron out issues affecting the residents.
By Wagema Mwangi