A report that investigates the role of state-sponsored surveillance in Kenya charges that information gathered by authorities – outside of the procedures required by Kenyan law – is used to facilitate human rights abuses.
That’s especially a concern as Kenya moves forward with the country’s 2017 elections, the report by the British-based Privacy International said.
“Intercepted communications content and data are used to facilitate gross human rights abuses, to spy on, profile, locate, track – and ultimately arrest, torture, kill or disappear suspects,” the report said. “These abuses have marred Kenya’s counterterrorism operations and further eroded Kenyans’ already weak trust in the agencies responsible for protecting them.”
The investigation is based on documents and interviews conducted in 2016. It includes information from 57 interviews, 32 of which were conducted with current or recently separated law enforcement, military and intelligence officers. Other interviews include those with lawyers, telecommunications personnel, and the families of disappeared Kenyans.
Among other details, Privacy International notes that the 2013 Westgate Mall attack was “a watershed moment for the expansion of the Kenyan government’s surveillance powers.” It was followed by passage of the 2014 Security Laws (Amendment) Act, which expanded the scope of government agencies in monitoring communications, despite legal challenges based on Kenya’s constitution.
The report’s recommendations urge Kenya’s independent oversight and human rights authorities to investigate surveillance abuses. It also calls on Kenya to reform legislation on surveillance, and ensure transparency among telecommunications operators who may be prevented from disclosing information about surveillance of Kenya’s citizens.