Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku, Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and security chiefs during a media briefing at the Supreme Court last night folowing a meeting involving the Judiciary and security arms.
Kenya is on the verge of taking drastic steps in the war against terror that could borrow from the stringent American anti-terrorism law, the USA PATRIOT Act, that is the most effective legislation against terrorism anywhere. Yesterday, the Executive and all the security arms sought to incorporate support of the Judiciary in taking steps targeting terror suspects and their networks, top level security sources said last night.
In an unprecedented meeting to discuss a tough solution to combat terrorism, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and his Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo met with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at the Supreme Court to brief him on the thrust of what the Executive and security arms require of the Judiciary in the war on terror. The meeting was also expected to be a precursor to a bigger meeting to follow on Thursday at the Judiciary Training Institute between security arms, judicial officers and security experts to discuss how to jointly combat terrorism.
The meeting that started at 4pm was also attended by top security chiefs, Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi, Defence Cabinet Secretary Rachelle Omamo, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo, Director of Criminal Investigation Ndegwa Muhoro, Director of National Intelligence Service Michael Gichangi and Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko. The meeting that ended at 8.30pm was said to have weighed constitutional means that can be pursued in tightening the way in which the law deals with terror suspects.
After the meeting, Dr Mutunga read a brief statement to the media saying it was dialogue between the Judiciary and security agencies on counter-terrorism measures. Mutunga said the meeting had resolved that, although independent, the three arms would coordinate and operate inter-dependently in the war of terror. He, however, noted that public interest in the war on terror would not override the Bill of Rights. Mutunga said the meeting had agreed on greater sharing of information and training collaboration between the defence forces and the Kenya Police.
He added: “Conversations as difficult as they are cannot be avoided. That’s why, leaders of security organs and judges will begin dialogue to discuss counter-terrorism measures within the context of the Constitution and international human rights law.” Recently, Deputy President William Ruto pleaded with the Judiciary not to grant bail to terror suspects facing cases in courts, saying those freed on bail usually flee to continue organising more acts of terrorism. The US, since the former administration of retired President Mwai Kibaki, has been pressuring Kenya to pass the Anti-Terrorim Bill, which would tighten the space against terror suspects and grant security arms leeway in dealing with them.
But the proposed legislation ran into political headwinds and was shelved. The USA PATRIOT Act, on which clauses of the Kenya Anti-Terrorism Bill were tailored, is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by former President George W. Bush in October, 2001, shortly after that year’s September 11 attacks on US installations. The title of the act is a ten-letter acronym (USA PATRIOT) that stands for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001’.
Among other tough measures, the law allows indefinite detention of terror suspects; permission to search homes and other suspect premises without the owner’s consent or knowledge; freedom by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to monitor telephone, emails, financial and other records, without a court warrant. High level security sources yesterday said the Executive has been under intense pressure to effectively take on terror suspects, while they freely enjoy constitutional rights like being granted bail shortly after arrest. Even if the legislation is not passed, the Executive is keen to reach a compromise with the Judiciary to actively help in the war on terror by waiving bail rights for suspects.
A media statement was expected to be issued by Lenku and Dr Mutunga last evening or this morning, The meeting was held as a brother to a Kenyan terror suspect being held in detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, US, has been interrogated by the police in connection to terror funding. Salim Khamis Hamsin, 35, was arrested together with another man at Shelly Beach area of Likoni, Mombasa, for questioning by Anti-terror Police officers. Police had been tracking Khamis through his mobile phone. Likoni OCPD Robert Mureithi said the duo are still being investigated over some intelligence information gathered over a long period.