NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – The Justice Ministry has sent a petition to the Internal Security office opposing further destruction of the Nyayo House torture chambers, citing ‘genuine concerns’ raised by human rights groups.,
The December 19 letter signed by Justice Permanent Secretary Amina Mohammed to Internal Security PS Francis Kimemia, makes reference to pleas by various human rights organisations urging the government to preserve the facilities.
According to Mohammed, the Justice Ministry concurs that it may be in the interest of Kenya’s posterity to preserve the torture chambers for historical reasons and also in light of current efforts towards truth, justice and reconciliation.
In her letter, she said that she trusted Mr Kimemia’s office “would take appropriate steps to preserve the same”, adding that the pleas raised genuine concerns.
The letter is copied to the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Justice Minister Martha Karua, and the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Muthoni Wanyeki.
Complaints led by the KHRC came to the fore last month condemning on-going ‘renovations’ that it said were bound to destroy useful evidence for the expected Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
On December 5, 2008 they wrote a letter to Mr Odinga requesting his intervention, saying that the chambers would be one of the subjects of investigation for the TJRC and it was important that they remain intact.
The letter was copied to Ministers George Saitoti (Internal Security), William Ole Ntimama (National Heritage), Martha Karua and the Attorney General Amos Wako.
“It is important that they remain intact as this will provide a basis for the establishment of truth and dispensation of justice as envisaged within International Human Rights Law,” said KHRC boss Ms Wanyeki in the letter.
She protested that so far, two of the basement cells have had their heavy sound-proofed steel doors removed.
The raft of complaints included that the lift connecting the basement and the interrogation rooms had been removed; all the switches in the control room tampered with, and an attempt had also been made to remove temperature vents.
The chambers were used during the KANU regime when various politicians and activists who opposed the rule of law found themselves locked up.
At least 2,000 people are believed to have been tortured in the notorious chambers.
Key political figures who fell victim Mr Odinga, Ministers James Orengo, Kiraitu Murungi and Anyang Nyong’o, plus former legislators Kenneth Matiba, Njeru Gathangu, Wanyiri Kihoro and Koigi wa Wamwere.
Activities at the chambers were banned and the facilities opened to the public when President Mwai Kibaki’s administration came to power in 2002. Human rights activists have been pushing for those behind the abuses to face justice, but no one has been charged yet.
The TJRC is expected to examine the cases of victims after Parliament passed a bill last year to set up the commission.