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Kenya fails to submit torture report

Thursday November 26 2009

By WALTER MENYA

The government has failed to submit its progress report on eliminating torture to a United Nations rights agency.

The UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) had given Kenya a year from November 2008 to November this year to carry out far-reaching reforms on measures to guard against state-sanctioned torture as well as availing avenues for justice to victims.

However, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), a non-governmental organisation that seeks to promote the rights of torture victims Thursday said the government has exhibited laxity in complying with its international obligations in regard to torture.

“Save for collaborative efforts with civil society organisation in developing a draft anti-torture bill that will define and deal with torture comprehensively, IMLU is taken aback by the government’s indifference in complying with UNCAT committee’s priorities on Kenya,” said IMLU executive director Dr Joan Nyanyuki.

Kenya ratified the Convention in 1997 and was expected to submit its first state report to the UNCAT Committee against torture within a year of ratification but this happened almost a decade later in February 2007.

Arising out of the first State report, the committee tasked the government to implement certain reforms in the police, prosecution of perpetrators of the Mt Elgon torture and provide compensation for torture victims.

In addition, the government was to enact new legislations that define torture within the Penal Code and specify appropriate penalties for offenders.

Human rights activists, Dr Nyanyuki observed, were now worried that the government was deliberately delaying submitting the second report for fear of retribution after serious crimes against humanity during the 2007 post-poll chaos.

The crimes have now formed the basis for the International Criminal Court’s involvement through chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo who is making a case for prosecution of perpetrators for international crimes against humanity. 

IMLU in August 2008 released a report dubbed Double Tragedy linking the Kenya military to the commission of gross human rights violations in Mt Elgon but Dr Nyanyuki criticised the government response as unsatisfactory.

“IMLU reiterates that the state agents who were involved in torture have not been brought to book while the people of Mt Elgon are yet to come to terms with the aftermath of the joint police and military operation,” she said.

The lobby also called on President Kibaki to make public the report by the National Task Force on Police Reforms led by retired judge Justice Philip Ransley.

Meanwhile, the lobby has begun collecting statements from fishermen in Migingo Island who were allegedly tortured by Ugandan forces. The lobby will use the evidence for litigation at the East African court of justice.

So far, Dr Nyanyuki disclosed that the lobby has come up with a case of one man who suffered soft tissue injuries and a skull fracture in the hands of the Ugandan police stationed at the island.

The victim, she said was still undergoing rehabilitation in which IMLU is involved.

“We intend to document more voices on the same so that we can establish whether the acts were random or planned to target a group of people. We are also interested in knowing who the perpetrators are,” she said.

The lobby’s legal redress officer Vincet Kodongo said the evidence collected from the fishermen would be presented to the regional court to set precedent in the expanded block.