Open Letter to President Ruto on Impending Visit to Washington

Dear President William Ruto,

Re:     Your Impending Visit to Washington

Kindly accept greetings from Amnesty International.

We welcome President Joseph Biden’s decision to recognise the importance of the 60th anniversary of United States – Kenya relations by honouring Kenya with the first State Dinner for an African Head of State since President Bush in 2008.

As you no doubt are deeply aware, the relationship between Kenya and the U.S. is multifaceted and the opportunities to grow the economic and political relationship are great.  We believe an important aspect of strong friendships is being honest with each other. To that end, we hope you will use your meeting with President Biden to raise three human rights concerns that Amnesty International is monitoring and advocating for in the United States of America.

Immediately Suspend Weapons to the Israeli Government

We appreciate all Government of Kenya policy positions taken bi-laterally and multi-laterally within the framework of the United Nations to achieve a ceasefire and the return of all civilians to their families.

We draw your attention to the fact that the Biden administration continues to transfer weapons to the Israeli government despite mounting evidence that US-made munitions are being used in unlawful attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip as part of a longstanding pattern of reckless and indiscriminate airstrikes against civilian objects.

More than 32,00 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and more than 70,000 injured since October 7, 2023. As the Israeli military offensive continues and the human-made humanitarian catastrophe deepens, Palestinian civilians in Gaza face an engineered famine and remain at risk of genocide. The Biden administration must immediately suspend the transfer of all weapons to the Israeli government.

We ask that you press the Biden administration to fulfil its obligations under international and US law by immediately suspending the transfer of all weapons to the Israeli government.

Uphold the Right to Seek Asylum

Kenya remains one of the most important sanctuary nations for refugees and asylum seekers in the world. We also look forward to the comprehensive and inclusive implementation of the Shirika Plan during the tenure of your national administration. Kenya’s track record provides an important platform for you to discuss the obligations of the United States Government to protect all who seek safety and asylum in America.

In May of 2023, the Biden Administration adopted a new rule that requires people seeking asylum at the border to register for an appointment using a telephone application to present themselves at a port of entry, or else they are considered presumptively ineligible for asylum. This has resulted in thousands of people being left stranded in dangerous conditions in Mexico for months as they await an appointment and forces others to take more dangerous routes to try and seek safety in the United States. President Biden is also currently considering new deterrence policies that would further restrict the right to seek asylum at the border and return people to danger without even a protection screening.

As a nation that has provided sanctuary to millions of Eastern Africa refugees for three decades, we request you to impress on President Biden to abandon all policies that restrict access to seek asylum at the US border and instead re-establish the ability to seek asylum at the border by investing in processing at ports of entry, reception and resettlement efforts.

Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women

More than 1 in 2 American Indian and Alaska Native women in the USA have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. They are 2.2 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to be raped. One of the central issues facing survivors is that they often don’t have access to post-rape care services in Indian Health Service centres, which is what many Indigenous people rely on for care.[1] 

We urge you to raise this concern with President Biden and ask him to work with the Indian Health Service to ensure that all Indigenous survivors of sexual violence have access to adequate, timely and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including sexual assault forensic examinations, without charge to the survivor and at a facility within a reasonable distance.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all states have an obligation to promote, protect and realise human rights. We trust that you will take the opportunity to extend Kenya’s international reputation as a rights-respecting state to deliver these messages to the United States Government.

Once again, Amnesty International welcomes President Biden recognizing the importance of the U.S.-Kenya relationship with this high diplomatic honor. We hope you will have honest conversations with him about the challenges the United States of America faces with respecting its own human rights obligations.

Accept our highest considerations for the people and government of Kenya,

Executive Director | Amnesty International Kenya

Email: [email protected]

[1] Amnesty’s recent report, Never-ending Maze: Continued Failure of the USA to Protect Indigenous Women from sexual violence, found that high rates of sexual violence have been compounded by the U.S. government’s 1) Steady erosion of tribal government authority, 2) Chronic under-resourcing of law enforcement agencies and service providers meant to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence, 3) Severe under-funding of the Indian Health Service (U.S. government healthcare for Indigenous people) and 4) a Lack of meaningful reform to the complex jurisdictional maze that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence face when seeking justice.