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UN rights chief urges Kenya leaders to avoid post-election violence

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called on Kenyan leaders [press release] Tuesday to "take the responsible path and exercise their leadership to avoid violence" in the wake of last week's contentious election. Deadly protests erupted [JURIST report] over the weekend after incumbent candidate Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner Friday. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga has claimed widespread voter fraud. Zeid expressed concern over reports of police brutality and the use of live ammunition against protesters:

People have the right to assemble and protest peacefully, and the authorities have a responsibility to ensure they can do so. The Government also has a responsibility to ensure that security forces prioritize dialogue, non-violent means and exercise restraint, using proportionate force only when unavoidable. ... Protesters should never resort to violence and political leaders should send clear messages to their supporters urging peaceful conduct. All acts of violence, including the serious allegations of excessive use of force by security forces, must be promptly and independently investigated.
Zeid urged Kenya's leaders to "do their utmost to calm a volatile political climate."

Protests following Kenya's 2007 election resulted in more than 1,200 deaths, triggering an International Criminal Court investigation and charges that were ultimately dropped [JURIST report] against Kenyatta. In March a rights group urged investigation [JURIST report] into the practices and surveillance techniques of Kenyan police officers after releasing a report documenting serious human rights abuses. In February a group of UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] Kenya to stop crackdowns on human rights group to protect the integrity of the upcoming election. In November a group of UN human rights experts condemned reported violence [JURIST report] against anti-corruption protesters and journalists in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

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