Kamiti probe launched amid outrage

November 19, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 19 – The government launched investigations on Wednesday into the alleged torture-to-death of a condemned prisoner at the Kamiti Maximum Prison following outcry from leaders and members of the public.

Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo and a team of CID officers accompanied by Human rights activists spent the better part of Wednesday interrogating death row inmates on circumstances that led to their colleague’s demise.

The quick response was prompted by video footage broadcast on local television on Tuesday night showing warders stripping men and beating them while scalding others with hot water during an operation to recover illegally held mobile phones and drugs from the inmates.

“I am equally disturbed by the images shown on television. I have instituted investigations to establish the true position on this matter because I am receiving many contradicting reports,” Mr Osugo said and added that they had recovered a mobile phone used by the inmates to take a video clips during the raid.

The prison’s boss said CID officers from the Kasarani police division interviewed death row inmates and warders who were on duty at the time.

“We have nothing to hide. The police are carrying out their investigations and we have even allowed human rights activists access to the facility. We want the truth to come out,” he said and revealed that at least six warders had recorded statements with the police.

“Although I support the operation, the manner in which it was carried out will have to be investigated to help us establish circumstances that led to the death of the inmate,” he added.

An official report presented to him upon arrival at Kamiti prison stated that the prisoner was found dead in his cell in the morning.

Prisoners interviewed by Capital News however maintained that their colleague who was serving a death sentence had collapsed after being beaten during the night operation.

“He was beaten until he collapsed. Warders did not bother to take him hospital,” one of the inmates said.

Mr Osugo said the operation was carried out in cells occupied by 1200 inmates serving death sentences who have been notorious in coercing members of the public through text messages to deposit money through their mobile phones or bank accounts.

165 mobile phones, dozens of rolls of bhang and other crude weapons were recovered during the operation, he said.

“I see a clear case of collusion between my officers and the inmates. There is no way these things could get to the prison without their knowledge,” he said and revealed that he had directed authorities there to conduct regular searches on warders before they are allowed into the cells.

He said stern action would be taken against any officer found to have been involved in sneaking the mobile phones to the prison and those who allegedly tortured inmates.

Justice Minister Martha Karua expressed ‘shock’ at the incident describing it as “gross violation of the rights of the death row prisoners”.

“As the Minister for Justice and also as the Minister in charge of human rights I wish to express the grave concerns at the goings-on at the Kamiti Prison. I will expect that they move to arrest the situation and punish those who are involved in the brutality,” she said.

“Our constitution clearly outlaws any degrading and inhumane treatment of any person,” she added.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka in whose Ministry the Prisons department falls equally expressed outrage and vowed to ensure justice prevails.

“I can assure you that the matter will be investigated thoroughly and appropriate action taken. The government can not allow that to continue happening,” he said.


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