The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called for a revision of the Penal Code, aiming to eliminate the criminal repercussions faced by individuals who attempt to die by suicide.
During an appearance before a committee which is investigating the deaths in Shakahola and religious extremism, the national human rights organization criticized the government for the arrest and prosecution of adherents of the controversial cult leader Paul Mackenzie.
As part of recommendations addressing the treatment of survivors affected by religious extremism, KNCHR submitted that individuals who attempt suicide are grappling with mental illnesses and should be provided with appropriate medical care rather than being subjected to arrest and legal charges.
KNCHR Commissioner Mariam Mutugi said the fundamental human rights of survivors of the Shakahola tragedy have been violated.
According to Prof. Mutugi, scientific research has confirmed that individuals who make suicide attempts often suffer from mental illness.
“The continued criminalisation of attempted suicide has not and does not deter the practice, but instead exacerbates stigma against persons with mental health conditions, thus preventing them from reaching out and seeking help,” Prof Mutugi said.
The commissioner called for the withdrawal of charges of attempted suicide against the survivors of the Shakahola cult. Prof Mutugi argued that prosecuting the survivors only exacerbates their trauma, particularly at a time when they are in dire need of empathy, comprehensive psycho-social assistance, rehabilitation, and community support.
“Sending them to our already congested prisons shall further aggravate their plight including adverse mental health consequences,” she said.