- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003


NAIROBI, Kenya — A parliamentary committee this week rejected a new bill aimed at stemming terrorism in this East African nation, citing concerns over individual rights.

“The Suppression of Terrorism Bill 2003 threatens to tear apart the very fabric of one nation and could offer fertile ground for inter-religious animosity and suspicion,” the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee said in a statement Tuesday.

“The bill should be shelved before it lands on the floor of the house,” the statement said, explaining, “Terrorism is a political crime that calls for political solutions and not necessarily through legislation.”

The committee, whose position on legal affairs heavily influences decisions by the National Assembly, said the government cannot arbitrarily take away God-given rights — the bill of rights — on the pretext of fighting terrorism.

Kenyan Muslims, about 30 percent of the country’s 31 million people, have strenuously rejected the bill and expressed fears that it targets them. The government announced last month it would present the bill to Parliament for consideration, but the legislation immediately drew widespread criticism over expanded police powers.

The bill allows police to arrest and to search property without authority from the courts, and allows investigators to detain suspected terrorists for 36 hours without outside contact.

The bill also outlaws the wearing of clothes that are closely associated with extremist groups.

Legal experts and human-rights groups in Kenya have dismissed the bill as an absurd imitation of the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001, the South African terrorism bill of 2002 and Britain’s Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001.

“While the U.S. Patriot Act is crafted in such a manner that targets foreigners and preserves the fundamental rights of American citizens, our own legislation seeks to reinvent the suppression of the fundamental rights and throws the bill of rights out of the window,” the statement said.

“There cannot, therefore, be any legal or moral justification to compromise the sacrifices made by our gallant freedom fighters in order to appease the exigencies of foreign powers, who want to introduce modern-day colonialism through the back door,” the committee said, alluding to accusations that the U.S. and British governments were pressuring the government to enact the bill.

The opposition Kenya African National Union (KANU) has vowed to reject the bill, calling it a step along the way to establishment of a U.S. military base in Kenya.

Kenya has twice experienced extremist attacks — first in 1998 when a car bomb blew up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, killing 213 persons, and again in 2002 when 18 persons were killed in the car-bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa.

Last month the government announced that intelligence reports indicated extremists were planning more attacks in the country, a warning that triggered travel advisories by several Western countries.

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