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NGO calls for torture laws

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – A local non governmental organisation is calling for the enactment of a law that criminalises torture as a way of minimising the violations of human rights.

Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) Executive Director Peter Kiama argued on Sunday that such a legislation would provide for a fund for reparation for the victims while also outlining the mechanisms for punishing perpetrators.

“This country does not have a law that clearly prohibits torture and provides for reparation for victims and survivors. But although Article 25 and Article 20 of Constitution prohibits torture, we need a national legislation that would enable the judiciary and other actors to enforce that constitutional provision,” he argued.

This is one of the recommendations that will be forwarded to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission that ends its thematic hearings on the extent of torture in the country on Monday.

The organisation is also calling for the immediate enactment of the National Coroner’s Service Bill to ‘de-link forensic medical documentation and investigation relating to custodial and suspicious deaths’ occasioned by law enforcers.

Kiama spoke to Capital News after the launch of an IMLU report, highlighting torture cases between 1999 and 2008.

According to the report titled ‘Quest for Justice: A journey with torture survivors and families of victims to access justice in Kenya’, 2,052 torture cases were reported, with police cited as the leading perpetrators accounting or 52 percent of all Torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment (TCID) cases.

“Out of the total, 1,731 were men constituting 84.2 percent with women numbering 321 or 15.6 percent of the survivors and victims of TCID’ the report documented.

Beatings constituted 52.3 percent of the cases often leading to trauma and soft tissue injuries. A further 20.75 percent or 427 victims, died as a result of the violations which included shootings and severe physical injuries.

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The report further showed that 63.8 percent of the reported cases also occurred in Nairobi, Central and Rift Valley provinces and were most prevalent in poor urban neighbourhoods and rural areas.

“This pointed to a clear correlation between poverty and torture; poverty as a cause and consequence of torture,” the findings indicated.

Kiama said that although the cases were more than those recorded before 1999, the figure was a gross underestimation since many people lack the courage to report the abuses.

He also acknowledged that the implementation of a law preventing such violations would have to be tempered with a commitment from government agencies to eradicate the vice.

A concerted effort would be needed for instance to enforce court rulings on reparation, he added citing the example of a woman who have never received her compensation of Sh7.2 million she was awarded by a judge in 2010.

A total of Sh83.3 million in claims filed by six victims including the Sh7.2 million have not been settled.

In addition, reforms in the law enforcement system the report argued should be fast tracked in order to rid these offices of the bad elements that perpetuate such violations.

“We call for speedy appointment of the Police Service Commission, the Independent Police Oversight Authority and the vetting of serving police officers to weed out those with a history of human rights violations,” Kiama emphasised.

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