KENYA: Ending impunity for torture still a big challenge

TORTUREKenya needs to implement a number of far-reaching measures, including the adoption of a prevention of torture law, to end the vice within the security, defence and law enforcement systems.

The central challenge continues to be impunity for torture, cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment, or extrajudicial killings often despite solid documentation.

This was the conclusion of a high-level mission to Kenya by a delegation of anti-torture experts, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and its coalition of partner organisations in Kenya.

The delegation held meetings with state and civil society actors to assess the way forward in implementing recommendations issued over the last years by the main UN anti-torture bodies.

Although Kenya has made important progress in building a strong constitutional and legal framework against torture, the country has not passed a prevention of torture law, identified by the UN Committee Against Torture as a priority, which would fully ensure domestication of the UN Convention Against Torture.

“The number one challenge in the fight against torture remains, in the view of all those that we met, the lack or late implementation of the many of the good laws passed over the last years as well as the continuous impunity for torture, and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, that appears to persist despite the adoption of these various legal reforms,” the team, led by the OMCT Secretary General, Gerald Staberock, said.

The bodies and commission set up in recent years need to be fully resourced to live up to their expectations. Serious concerns about the delays in their creation or effective functioning, for example of a gender and children desk within police facilities and an FGM [Female Genital Mutilation] board under the FGM law, need now to be addressed.”

The delegation expressed concern about “severe” reductions in funding for the state-run Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the delays in the appointment of its commissioners which risks frustrating one of the most effective national human rights institutions in eastern Africa.There attempts to frustrate police reforms that are underway to make the service more professional and accountable to the public. The team noted that the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPEA) was targeted to limit its mandate. The are also attempts to expand the rules on the use of firearms. Inspector General of Police David Kaimayo recently issued a shoot-to-kill order to his officers.

Although judiciary reforms are going on, there remains a serious delay in the adjudication of cases leading to overcrowded prisons. Many suspects are held in pre-trial detention in some cases for up to 11 years.

“We are particularly concerned about the detention of children, including in remand detention, as children should only be subjected to pre-trial detention in the most exceptional circumstances,” the group said.

“Another area of reform concerns the treatment of prisoners facing the death penalty whose prison regime has to be assimilated to ordinary prisoners, as the death penalty is not executed in Kenya.


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