A leading member of the Kenyan parliament's House Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs has called on the government to appeal a court ruling that suspended parts of a controversial anti-terrorism law.
The law enables police to detain terrorism-related suspects without charge for 360 days and imposed strict rules on how the media report on security.
Citing human rights concerns, the court suspended parts of the anti-terrorism law opponents say undermine civil liberties and contravene the constitution.
Parliamentarian Peter Njoroge Baiya disagreed with the court ruling, saying lawmakers considered the country’s security challenges as well as concerns of the law’s opponents before passing the measure in parliament.
“As a Kenyan who is also alive to the challenges we are going through as a country, I don’t actually agree with the decision of the court and I am going to urge the government to appeal against that decision as a matter of urgency,” said Baiya.
“As parliament, we had opportunity to actually consider those laws and all the various provisions and those that could have been abused we actually were able to remove them at the level of legislation,” said Baiya. “All the legislation that we passed were clearly earmarked to address the security challenges currently prevailing in the country.”
Supporters of the law say there is a need to strengthen current laws following an escalation of violence by armed groups, including the Somali-based Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab.
They say opponents of the proposal would be inadvertently supporting terrorists, whom they say are trying to create chaos and instability in the East African country.
But opponents of the anti-terrorism law, including opposition and civil society organizations, argue it enables security agencies to wield unbridled power to torture people. They contend that journalists could be jailed for doing their jobs. They also said there is no need for the law, because there is an existing anti-terrorism law, which the administration has refused to enforce.
Legislator Baiya said opponents of the law appear to be disinterested in the fight against terrorism.
“They are definitely not concerned or even interested about the challenges of insecurity in this country. We cannot talk about the liberty when the limbs and lives are being lost on account of the insecurity perpetrated by the terrorists,” said Baiya.
“The legislations we passed we basically geared to enhance coordination of the security agencies to actually demand responsibility in the law enforcement itself. If that is what the court is setting aside, I personally don’t agree with it,” said Baiya.