Katiba Institute held training sessions for human rights defenders in Nairobi, Lamu and Turkana counties on self-representation. The training is a key aspect towards strengthening the work of human rights defenders and enhancing their protection.
Self-representation is basically pursuit or defence of one’s legal right in a court or tribunal without engaging an advocate.
Self-representation skills are important for Human Rights Defenders because they are generally at risk of confrontations with the law. In this process, arrests and trials are foreseeable. By the nature of their human rights interventions on behalf of others, HRDs are expected to be vigilant and zealous in the protection of their own fundamental rights and freedoms.
In Lamu county, Katiba Institute hosted participants drawn from Pate and Amu Islands (forming the Lamu Human Rights Defenders Network) on 15th and 16th March, 2023. A similar engagement was held in Nairobi on from 22nd February to 25th February 2023 targeting participants from Mathare HRD Network and Kawangware HRD Network. Previously, Katiba Institute conducted a two-day training (22nd and 23rd June, 2022) on self-representation that targeted Human Rights Defenders from the Kalokol Human Rights Defenders Network and Kakuma Human Rights Defenders Network in Turkana county. The networks in the three counties were formed as part of the interventions of the project that Katiba Institute is undertaking in Turkana, Lamu and Nairobi counties that aims to strengthen the work of human rights defenders and enhance their protection, thanks to the support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi.
During the training human rights defenders shared some of the challenges they face while on duty. They include confrontation with state and law enforcement agents, harassments, misunderstanding and criminalization of human rights defenders’ activities. HRDs also suffer blame and other liabilities because of the actions or misdeeds of the communities they work with, for instance, where a peaceful demonstration turns violent because of the action of a few people, not incited or even foreseeable by the human rights defenders.
Where legal information is scanty, people working with the human rights defenders may also be prone to commit other unforeseeable offences. Certainly, many of them are also poorly prepared for the legal challenges in their work. Consequentially, arrests and trial processes involving Human Rights Defenders do occur in multiple circumstances.
By Kevin Mabonga