PEV rape victims sue S. Korean DNA firm for destroying samples

Samples collected for DNA

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More than 400 rape victims of the 2007/2008 post-election violence want a South Korean DNA testing company to compensate them for illegally destroying samples that was to be used to pursue justice.

They also want the company to issue a formal apology.

The victims say they transported the samples to HUMANPASS, a South Korean research institute, for safe storage because the situation in Kenya was volatile and the evidence could have been destroyed or tampered with.

In 2020, they say, a funding opportunity arose that was to help analyse and profile the samples on behalf of the victims.

But when they asked HUMANPASS for the samples, they were shocked to be told that they had been destroyed.

They claim they had not been consulted and that the company’s action was illegal and an injustice against the victims.

“Each rape victim who is aggrieved demands compensation of 25 million be provided to them,” the May 13 letter demands. If the South Korean government fails to take action, they threaten, they will seek legal redress.

On February 7, 2020, Mr Kinyanjui Murigi, the director and head of humanitarian services at CSI Nairobi, wrote to the President of South Korea and other government officials regarding the matter but there was no response.

CSI Nairobi, with its international partners, made global history by becoming the first firm to collect, catalogue and store crucial forensic DNA evidence from about 700 sexual assault victims during a time of active unrest.

The company says the only scientific evidence pertaining to the 2007-08 post-election violence that could be used by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Kenyan or regional courts in prosecuting suspects was available in those samples.

A consultant located the facility in South Korea that would help them securely store the samples as they sought funds.

Secure these samples

“[When] a funding opportunity finally arose in 2020, we were informed by one of the individuals who assisted us to secure these samples in South Korea that they had been destroyed,” the letter says.

"These courageous women and children, who have been waiting for justice for more than a decade, their only hope of salvation was destroyed in South Korea.”

In an August 9, 2021, Mr Murigi sought the help of ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on behalf of the rape victims.

Mr Murigi asked the ICC to investigate and prosecute HUMANPASS and its CEO for alleged violation of the human rights of rape victims in Kenya.

He said the company’s actions had resulted in a miscarriage of justice for hundreds of women raped during the post-polls violence as it destroyed crucial forensic DNA evidence given to them for secure storage that was to be used to bring the perpetrators to justice.

But in its response on May 12, the evidence unit of the ICC said the court exercises jurisdiction only over persons for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC unit said the information described in Mr Murigi’s letter did not appear to fall under the stringent definitions and the allegations fell outside the jurisdiction of the court.

“The information you have submitted will be maintained in our archives, and the decision not to proceed may be reconsidered if new facts or evidence provide a reasonable basis to believe that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been committed,” the ICC evidence unit said.

The unit added that the ICC “is designed to complement, not replace national jurisdictions. Thus, if you wish to pursue this matter further, you may consider raising it with appropriate national or international authorities”.

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