Kenya ‘anti-terror’ law faces legal setback

Court suspends key clauses of legislation passed by parliament and signed by the president owing to rights concerns.

Kenya’s High Court has suspended key parts of a controversial new national security law pending a full examination of the legislation.

High Court Judge George Odunga announced on Friday that the application of eight sections of the new anti-terrorism law would be suspended because they raised concerns over human rights.

The move follows a legal challenge by Kenya’s opposition, who had argued that the country was at risk of becoming a dictatorship.

The security bill was passed by parliament last month after a debate that prompted brawls between governing coalition and opposition MPs, and was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

It hands Kenyan authorities sweeping powers to crack down on terror suspects – including holding 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”.

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The suspended clauses include the threat to journalists, a ceiling on the number of refugees allowed to be accepted in Kenya, as well as definitions on what constitutes support for terrorism.

The government argues the measures are necessary to confront a wave of attacks by Somalia’s al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab fighters and that amendments giving the courts more oversight over the police and intelligence services make it constitutionally sound.

However, opposition and civil action groups are up in arms.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Nairobi, Evans Monari, a Kenyan lawyer, said that there are sections of the law that do run counter to the constitution. However, these could be rectified, he said.

“What I would like to see is a sunset clause for this law so that it does not run indefinitely and operates up to a particular point,” Monari said.

The clauses in question will be assessed and decided on but there is still a chance the controversial clauses the opposition feels are unconstitutional.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies