Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (foreground). File picture: Andrew Winning

Nairobi - Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's first year in office has been marked by a string of “worrisome cases” of rights infringements and by rampant impunity, two rights groups said in a report on Wednesday.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission( KHRC) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said Kenyan authorities “have attempted to clamp down on dissenting voices, either through the adoption of restrictive legislation aimed at further regulating the NGO or media sectors”.

The groups also condemned “violent police crackdown on demonstrators” and alleged “judicial harassment of protesters and human rights defenders”.

The past year of the Jubilee coalition government of President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto “has been a period within which freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly have been constantly under threat”, said KHRC director Atsango Chesoni.

“This undermining of these and other constitutional human rights gains must stop if Kenya is to truly follow the path of democracy and the rule of law,” she added.

The groups said rights violations have also been committed under the country's attempt to crackdown on Islamist militants, operations which have become a top national priority following last year's attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

The attack, which left at least 67 dead, was claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab rebels and prompted a string of major security swoops in and around Nairobi and along the Muslim-majority coastal region.

“Under the guise of preserving the country's peace and security, authorities have conducted anti-terrorism operations which have, in some cases, been marred by serious human rights abuses,” the groups said in a statement.

Kenyatta and Ruto, who are also both facing crimes against humanity charges at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) over their role in post-2007 election violence, were also criticised for working actively to undermine the tribunal.

“Instead of fulfilling their obligation to ensure that victims of post-election violence get justice and redress, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have spent their entire first year in office actively undermining these non-derogable rights,” FIDH President said. - AFP