The Holy Ghost Coptic Church in Kisumu’s decision to imprison individuals of the public who are allegedly mentally sick has been denounced by Roseline Odede, the chairperson of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
On Thursday, Odede said that despite repeated reports of infractions at the Holy Coptic Church, the government has not yet taken any decisive action to resolve them. In addition, it is stated that those in custody are shackled and subjected to abhorrent conditions while allegedly receiving healing prayers.
Odede stated, “The Commission condemns in the greatest terms the continuous egregious violations and abuses of the rights of people detained by the Church under the cover of faith healing or for other reasons.
According to Odede, the current situation is a mirror of the larger reality that people with disabilities, especially those who have mental health disorders, continue to suffer.
The Prevention of Torture Act of 2017 and the constitutional rights to freedom and security of the person, freedom of expression and association, and right to health and protection of the weak were all allegedly violated by the action, according to the panel.
Odede reminded Kenyans that they had received a complaint of a similar nature in 2018 regarding a child being held at the Holy Ghost Coptic Church due to mental illness.
The commission conducted investigations and found that there were, in fact, people being confined inside the church and living in appalling conditions.
Investigations revealed that the Church lacks a medical facility and staff qualified to care for persons suffering from mental illness or other disabilities, according to Odede.
Odede urged the National Police Service and DPP Noordin Haji to use their legal authority and make sure that anyone found responsible for abusing the rights of people who have been imprisoned by the Church faces criminal investigations and prosecutions.
The Attorney General was also invited by the commission to examine the church’s operations and take the necessary legal action.
According to Oded, some institutions, such as those engaged in faith healing, not only violate the rights of people who have mental illnesses but also strengthen the myth that mental illness is the result of sin or evil spirits, leading to continued discrimination and a failure to seek necessary medical care.
Odede lamented the fact that despite repeated reports, nothing has been done to address the infractions at Holy Coptic Church. She denounced the ongoing, egregious abuses and infringement of the rights of individuals held by the church for fictitious reasons such as faith healing.
The panel expresses grave worry that this situation is a microcosm of the larger reality that people with disabilities, especially those who continue to have mental health issues or psychosocial and intellectual difficulties, continue to face.
This proves that there are pervasive human rights breaches, indignity, discrimination, stigma, and social exclusion in many areas, including families, religious communities, and other public and private spheres, she said. The church, its directors, and Father John Pesa are the targets of a legal case already started by the Kisumu county administration.