NAIROBI, Mar 25 – A group of survivors of sexual violence committed after Kenya’s violence-hit 2007 elections took the government to court on Tuesday over its alleged failure to protect them and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The six women and two men, who are supported by a coalition of four human rights organisations, have lodged a complaint in the High Court in Nairobi directed against Kenya’s Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, and members of the police and public health authorities.
The opening of the case comes as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy-President William Ruto are still grappling with charges laid by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over their alleged roles in the 2007-2008 unrest, which left at least 1,000 dead.
Ruto’s crimes against humanity case is currently being heard in The Hague, although the case against Kenyatta at the ICC appears to be close to collapse because of a lack of witnesses.
In Tuesday’s opening hearing, the High Court heard allegations of how security forces deployed during the violence sexually abused women and girls, including in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.
“Some of those who were supposed to provide security were the actual perpetrators. Witnesses in Kibera informed… that police officers committed the acts of rape,” prominent human rights lawyer Patricia Nyaundi told Justice Isaac Lenaola.
The court also heard how attackers carried out forced circumcisions on male victims, sodomised boys and in some instances forced the termination of pregnancies, and Nyaundi said the state had failed to take adequate measures to ensure the victims’ rights were protected.
According to Physicians for Human Rights, one of the groups backing the case, the petition to the High Court is “premised on the notion that the primary responsibility to protect citizens and provide redress when rights are violated lies with each sovereign state.”
“In this instance, the government of Kenya bears legal responsibility entrenched in the country’s constitution and international and regional human rights treaties adopted by Kenya to enact and enforce laws, establish effective complaint mechanisms, and support competent tribunals that prohibit and sanction sexual violence,” the group said in a statement.
It said it wanted to see the Kenyan government “promptly and impartially investigate, prosecute, and punish alleged perpetrators”, “provide adequate compensation to victims” and “ensure that survivors have adequate access to medical services and psychological care.”
Rights groups say the case, which has been pending since February 2013, is aimed at highlighting the suffering of more than 900 people who complained at having suffered incidents of sexual violence following the 2007 elections.
The 2007 election unrest erupted after Mwai Kibaki was re-elected president, a result challenged as rigged by the opposition. At the time current President Kenyatta was in the Kibaki camp and his now ally Ruto supported the challenger Raila Odinga.