U.S. Delegation Urged to Raise Human Rights Concerns at Kenya Conference on Countering Violent Extremism
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. delegation to this week’s conference on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Kenya to make human rights concerns central to the delegation’s discussions and to fully include civil society leaders in the deliberations. The call came in a letter to Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall urging her to ensure that clear commitments to implementing human rights protections, including support for civil society and human rights defenders, are carried through into the Action Agenda for CVE. The June 24-28 conference is a regional follow up to the White House CVE Summit that took place in February.
“At the [White House] Summit, President Obama noted that oppression and denial of human rights are counterproductive to combating violent extremism. We agree,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “We have participated in the follow-up process from the Summit seeking to ensure that protecting human rights becomes a central part of the CVE strategy adopted by the international community. U.S. leadership at regional meetings such as the one this week in Kenya will be essential to achieving this outcome. Moreover, independent civil society organizations should be included fully in the deliberations at the regional meeting in Kenya—and any others to be held elsewhere, as well as at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in the fall—as part of the process of developing and ultimately implementing the multilateral strategy.”
The regional CVE meeting will bring together more than 300 participants from at least 21 African nations to further develop the Action Agenda for CVE, which will ultimately be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September. This conference will be held weeks before President Obama is scheduled to visit Kenya.
In recent months the Kenyan government, under the guise of anti-extremism initiatives, has intensified its crack down on the activities of many legitimate human rights organizations including Muhuri and Haki Africa, which have been known for their outspoken criticism of the Kenyan government. These restrictive behaviors threaten the independence of civil society, a critical partner in the fight against terrorism.
“Underscoring the importance of human rights to countering violent extremism will also prepare the ground for President Obama to raise these issues during his visit to the country next month. Kenya is a key U.S. partner in the global struggle against terrorism and violent extremism, and it is essential that this partnership be grounded in respect for universal human rights standards, including protection for the legitimate activities of independent human rights organizations.” added Massimino.