The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has called on the Director of Public Prosecution and National Police Service to investigate and prosecute the Holy Ghost Coptic Church in Kisumu County over reports of detention, chaining, and putting mentally ill people there.
The commission condemned the continued gross violations and abuses of the rights of those detained in the church under the guise of faith healing.
“The Commission expresses deep concerns that this state of affairs, is a reflection of the bigger reality that persons with disability particularly those with mental health conditions or psychosocial and intellectual disabilities continue to experience.”
This is a testimony that there exist widespread human “rights violations, indignity, discrimination, stigma and social exclusion across all spaces, such as in families, religious circles and indeed in other public and private spheres,” a statement read.
The commission called on the DPP and NPS to exercise their legal rights to bring those culpable to face the law.
“The Commission therefore, calls upon the Director of Public Prosecution and the and the National Police Service to exercise their legal powers and ensure criminal investigations and prosecutions are taken against the Church, Father John Pesa or any other person found culpable for violating the rights of persons who have and/or detained by the Church.”
KNCHR also invited the attorney general to regulate and audit all churches in the country and take action against those found violating human rights.
“The Commission therefore, invites the Attorney General of the Republic of Kenya who is mandated to regulate religious institutions, to audit the church and it’s operation and take appropriate action, not just for the Holy Ghost Church but other religious institutions involved in ‘faith healing” as certain institutions not only violate rights of persons with mental illness but also exacerbate belief that mental illness is a result of evil spirit or sin hence continued discrimination and failure to seek appropriate medical attention.”
It urged the national and all county governments to improve access to comprehensive, integrated and quality mental health services at all levels of care which facilitates early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of persons with mental health conditions.
In 2018 KNCHR undertook investigations between March and May and established that there were persons being held in Holy Ghost Coptic Church upon receipt of a complaint relating to a minor with mental illness detained.
The commission recognized that the majority of the persons detained therein had mental illnesses and were shackled.
Investigations further established that the church has no medical facility or personnel to handle patients with mental illness or disabilities.
The Human Rights Watch report in 2020 revealed that 60 men, women and children with real or perceived psychosocial disabilities were found chained and hidden from view in the same church.
KCNHR has encouraged members of the public who are willing to share any information regarding the operations of the Holy Coptic Church of Africa or similar incidences to contact the Commission through SMS 22359.