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Why lawyers want Judiciary reopened amid coronavirus curfew

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JOSEPH OPENDA

By JOSEPH OPENDA
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The Rift Valley Law Society of Kenya wants Chief Justice David Maraga to reopen the Judiciary for checks into excesses by the Executive in the wake of the dusk to dawn curfew.

Addressing the press on Saturday, RVLSK President John Ochang’ asked the CJ to reconsider his decision to shut down the courts and give Kenyans an avenue for seeking recourse in the event of violation of their rights.

Mr Ochang’ spoke in the wake of public condemnation of police over widespread brutality in their enforcement of the 7pm to 5am curfew, imposed as part of Kenya’s bid to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said Mr Maraga’s decision to halt court operations left Kenyans vulnerable and at the mercy of police.

The official further noted that the Judiciary should be operational in order to protect and uphold the rule of law.

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“We have witnessed a situation where criminal justice was delegated to the police, who have become the jury, the judge and the executioner,” he said.

“We believe the idea of closing down the courts [should be subjected to a] rethink and that the Chief Justice should [allow] the courts to operate at some level so that helpless and defenceless Kenyans can have a recourse within the system that is supposed to check and balance the excesses of the government.”

Mr Ochang’s condemned police, saying their use of excessive force on Friday was unfortunate and illegal.

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He regretted that the manner in which police are implementing the curfew exposes Kenyans to a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Lawyer Kikpkoech Ngetich, a member of the LSK council, also said police violated the rule of law.

He said lawyers support the government’s measures against the virus but not the criminal enforcement of the curfew.

Mr Ngetich asked Interior cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the Inspector-General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to take responsibility and resign.

He also said the society will on Monday challenge the curfew under a certificate of urgency.

“We find the actions of police to be criminal and condemn them in the strongest terms possible. The LSK does not support the brazen violation of human rights and wants action taken against those responsible,” he noted, adding the courts should be reopened so as to handle urgent matters including arrests during the curfew.





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