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NGOs sue Idemia for failing to consider human rights risks in Kenyan digital ID

Company disputes “terms and purpose”
Categories Biometrics News  |  ID for All  |  Trade Notes
NGOs sue Idemia for failing to consider human rights risks in Kenyan digital ID

A group of NGOs led by Data Rights has filed a case before the Paris tribunal accusing Idemia of failing to adequately address human rights issues in its vigilance plan, marking the latest in a string of legal actions related to Kenya’s National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).

The claimants have asked the court to order the French firm to conduct a risk assessment and design mitigating measures.

Idemia supplied the biometric capture kits to the Kenyan government in 2018-19 for its controversial national digital ID scheme, commonly known as Huduma Namba (“service number”).

The case is being brought under France’s Due Vigilance Law, according to Data Rights, which requires companies to assess any risks to human rights that their operations may have.

NIIMS has been repeatedly accused of being exclusionary towards marginalized communities. The Kenyan organizations the Nubian Rights Forum and Kenya Human Rights Commission are working with Data Rights on the case.

The organizations claim NIIMS continues exclusion against marginalized communities who face barriers to enrol. They say the centralized database lacks sufficient checks and balances and is at risk of exploitation, such as for surveillance. They allege Idemia sold the “enabling technology” to Kenya without undertaking proper due diligence of the threat to human rights.

“Idemia strongly contests the terms and purpose of this lawsuit from the NGO Data Rights,” a company representative told Biometric Update in an email.

“The law provides that the due diligence plan on the French law concerns the risks resulting from the activity of the company and its subsidiaries, and not the risks resulting from the use by their clients of the goods and services that the company and its subsidiaries provide, namely, in this case, the Kenyan government.

“We would also like to remind that Idemia fully adheres to the principles of the United Nations Global Compact, and that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is at the heart of its commitments. Moreover, the facts on this case have been made public since 2017. No new facts have emerged since then,” the emailed statement continues.

“Ethics, compliance and transparency are Idemia’s top priorities and are at the heart of all our day-to-day activities, to ensure that our customers are held to the highest standards.”

Further legal issues in Kenya for Idemia

As well as supplying equipment for Huduma Namba, Idemia has held the contract for biometric voting equipment in Kenya. This relationship went sour.

The National Assembly’s proposed ten-year ban on Idemia was overturned by the High Court in April 2020 and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sought to buy software updates to keep using existing kit.

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