War on terror or war on human rights? Implications of the "war on terror" for human rights in Kenya.

Wahome, Patrick Mutahi
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It is interesting how a specific date and month has come to define the world. In the dawn of the millennium, few people would have thought international politics would suddenly change. It was even harder to envisage that America would be a direct target of terror groups’ right inside their country in such a huge magnitude, in this age after the end of cold war when it was the only super power. The events of September 11, 2001 will forever remain entrenched in history and even more so the political events that followed after, since they have redefined the world and its political ideology. Different states have responded to the attacks differently, springing surprises, twists and turns that have shaped the agenda of the human rights discourse. The response to the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre has posed a dilemma to scholars in international human rights law, some of them whom have questioned if this is the end of human rights era.1 This is because of how the human rights discourse has been put at cross purpose with the anti-terror efforts that have been employed. After Al-qaeda operatives crashed three airlines into the Pentagon and World Trade Centre, while a fourth one crashed in a field in Shanksville, this was seen as a direct act of aggression on America and President George Bush vowed revenge. On October 8th 2001, Bush launched a campaign to track Osama Bin Laden and followers of his Al-qaeda group, who were responsible for the attacks. The “war on terror” began the same day with the bombing of Afghanistan that aimed at toppling the Afghanistan government, which supported Al-qaeda. While doing this, Bush placed terrorism above any other global agenda. It is important to note that the toppling of the Afghanistan regime was through the UN Security Council. When a new government was set up after the regime was toppled, the “war on terror” entered new frontier. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, President Bush declared that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were “rogue states” and alleged that the three countries were developing weapons of mass destruction. Bush feared that terrorists would use these chemical and biological weapons to attack other countries, more so American interests and hence measures had to be taken before this happened. He next turned to Iraq which was suspected of having chemical and biological weapons and links with Al-qaeda. He vowed to topple the Iraq regime of Saddam Hussein on these pretexts.2 These actions led to a lot of international debate, with many countries urging America not to use force to push its agenda. Specifically, most countries were of the view that inspectors from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNIMOVIC) should be allowed to inspect Iraq to authenticate the claims.3 In addition, many countries felt that for such a war to happen, the UN Security Council had to pass a resolution allowing the attack of Iraq. Nevertheless, America and its allies went ahead with their plans of toppling Saddam. On April 9, 2003 the regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled and he was captured on December 14, 2003. However, Osama has not yet been caught. At the same time, the United Nations (U.N.) has passed various resolutions condemning terrorism and urging countries to enact anti-terror measures that do not infringe on the people’s human rights. Despite this, the anti-terrorism measures adopted by many countries have fallen short of the U.N. human rights requirements and have proved to be a challenge to internationa l human rights law and refugee law. This has led to various scholars arguing that the U.N. charter should be reviewed to adequately cater for the “war on terror” and the enforcement of human rights while engaging in these efforts. In any case, it is clear that legal safeguards that were once viewed as unchangeable are now being challenged. As David Rieff avers, “…the threat that internal war and terrorism poses to the edifice of international law would have become apparent sooner or later. If anything, September 11 only hastened and focused the process.” This research report aims to study the implications of the “war on terror” for the protection of human rights in Kenya. In doing so, it is noted that even though Kenya has been a victim of terrorist activities, it was only after America began the “war on terror” in October 2001 that it started putting up structures to address terrorism. Thus, the main thrust of this research is to investigate the human rights dilemma that Kenya faces in these efforts includ ing interrogating the reasons for the tensions that resulted from the draft Suppression of Terrorism bill 2003 that was drawn up by the government in its effort to fight terrorism. In order to do this, several research questions inform the study. a) How has the “war on terror” shaped the understanding and practices of human rights in Kenya? b) How has the “war on terror” shaped Kenya’s approach to terrorism? c) How did the draft Suppression of Terrorism bill 2003 emerge? d) Was the draft bill a result of social struggles and history of the country as regards terrorism? e) What are the human rights concerns that have emerged from the draft bill? f) What are the tensions that have cropped up between protecting human rights and ensuring national security in Kenya? This will include a study of local campaigns by the Civil Society and Muslim community against the draft antiterror bill. g) Why have the tensions come up between the citizens and the government? To do this, the study will look into the human rights history of Kenya and relationship between the government and its citizens. h) What has been the impact of anti-terrorism measures on certain ethnic and religious groups? i) How have suspected terrorists in Kenya been treated while under custody? Human rights as applied in this research report refers to a set of internationally agreed upon principles which have been set down in the various declarations of United Nations human rights instruments, African Charter and other legal documents like Constitutions. Over the years, these principles have continuously been refined and extended to ensure that more people especially the minorities are catered for and have since been evoked when oppression occurs.
Student Number : 0415941F - MA research report - School of Social Sciences - Faculty of Humanities
war, terror, human rights, Kenya