Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kenya torture victims compensated

Some of the torture victims celebrate with their lawyers after they won a compensation claim against the Kenya Government July 21, 2010. Photo/PAUL WAWERU

Some of the torture victims celebrate with their lawyers after they won a compensation claim against the Kenya Government July 21, 2010. Photo/PAUL WAWERU 

By MAUREEN NGESA

The Kenya Government will part with almost Sh40 million as compensation to former detainees.

The 21 ex-detainees were awarded the money by a High Court judge who ruled that they had proved that they had been subjected to torture and deserved to be compensated.

Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu said all the victims had been tortured at the infamous Nyayo torture chambers.

The suits were filed individually but were later consolidated.

Accused of treason

The 21, through the Kenya Human Rights Commission, accused the government of violating their rights. They said they were tortured by police in former president Moi’s reign.

Most of the victims, among them former University of Nairobi student leader Samuel Njenga, were accused of treason. They were also charged with being members of an unlawful society. Most of the charges were later dropped and the victims released.

The ex-detainees said they underwent physical and mental suffering and should be compensated.

In its defence, the State said the cases were filed late. It said the victims claimed they were tortured between 1982 and 1997, yet the cases were filed in 2004, 24 years later.

The victims, the State said, did not name the offenders except to say they were government officials and it was difficult to assess the claims.

The Attorney General also asked the court to forward the case to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, but the court declined, saying the case was filed way before the TJRC was set up.

“The plaintiffs’ application and demands were beyond the jurisdiction of the TJRC,” ruled the judge.

Among those to be compensated are Prof Edward Oyugi, Mr Silvanese Oketch and Mr James Mwangi, who will receive amounts varying from Sh1 million to Sh2.5 million each.

The AG intends to appeal.

Another group which includes lawyer Rumba Kinuthia, Dr Odhiambo Olel and the family of Mr Mbewa Ndede have since been paid Sh1.5 million each.

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