alexa We’ve all tolerated torture for too long - Daily Nation

We’ve all tolerated torture for too long

Friday August 12 2011

By GABRIEL DOLAN [email protected]

One in four Kenyans has experienced torture, and most of that has been meted out by police officers of various ranks.

That is the damning conclusion of a torture prevalence survey conducted by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (Imlu) and released 10 days ago. 

Torture is most frequently administered in prison cells, police bases and in chiefs’ offices.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of all victims do not report the offence and that is hardly surprising since 77 per cent of all reported cases are not investigated.

Hardly any wonder then that we meet so many traumatised people in our villages, neighbourhoods and detention centres.  

Worse still torture has not reduced with the passing of the new Constitution that outlaws the offence.


According to the report, the vast majority of victims are poor with little access to redress and reparations.

Indeed, the violence they suffer severely impairs their ability to be productive citizens, thus further impoverishing and retraumatising them.  

The report’s findings were a news item for 48 hours and then suddenly disappeared from the airwaves.

No national outrage, no questions in Parliament and no demands for the resignation of top cops.

Indeed it appears that we are all resigned to accept that torture is prevalent, inevitable and maybe even necessary.  

The frequency of torture has unfortunately led to its tolerance and acceptability.

We seem to believe that it is the best and only weapon to fight crime and conduct investigations.

Police officers are rarely punished for torturing suspects and so interrogation with force has become accepted practice.

We have chosen brutality over intelligence and erringly believe it produces better results.

The truth is that many, many criminals walk free from the courts due to sloppy investigations done by a poorly trained and badly motivated police force.

Due to our failure to fight crime we perceive almost every poor person — that is the majority — as a potential suspect and a threat to national security.

We have criminalised the poor instead of condemning and fighting poverty. Just look at the economic background of our 50,000 inmates if you have doubts.

Last month, KACC offered a 60-day amnesty to rich thieves confirming the deep disparity in justice as well as wealth in our country. 

One very positive feature, however, of the Kenyans for Kenya initiative was its acknowledgement that state institutions and the corporate world have neglected and failed the poor.

Their magnanimous gesture of mercy was a resonating admission that the poor are not to blame for their own poverty.  

Imlu have also highlighted the difficulty the poor have in accessing justice of redress.

They advocate the passing of the Independent Police Oversight Authority Bill as well as the Anti-Torture Bill that will put in place mechanisms for investigating and punishing perpetrators of torture.

The Coroners Bill can also assist by reducing the powers of police in investigating extra-judicial killings.

However, the best guarantee of reducing torture is by eradicating poverty and offering a better, more inclusive society to all our citizens.

When we have a more equal society, be assured that the incidence of torture and extra-judicial killings will decrease dramatically.