Lobby: One in four Kenyans tortured

Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) director Peter Kiama. IMLU said one in every four Kenyans has been tortured by law enforcement officers and vigilante groups June 26, 2012. FILE

One in every four Kenyans has been tortured by law enforcement officers and vigilante groups, a non-governmental organisation says.

According to the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), 59 per cent of the perpetrators are the regular police officers, nine per cent vigilante groups and seven per cent administration police.

The local chief and council askaris (police) account for five and four per cent of the tortures, IMLU said in a report to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

In a conference to mark the day at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi Tuesday, IMLU director Peter Kiama noted that poverty was the new form of torture in Kenya.

“The need for decisive action to end the culture of impunity and address the plight of victims and survivors is more urgent than ever before,” Mr Kiama told the conference.

“This is because torture has taken a new face – the face of poverty. Majority of victims and survivors seeking support are now young men aged below 35 years from poor urban and rural neighbourhoods.”

June 26 was declared by the UN as the day to pay respects to those who have endured unimaginable acts by authorities in 1997.

Mr Kiama noted that poverty stripped victims of torture the ability to continue their livelihoods and that poor persons were disproportionately more vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment.

According to the UN, any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental is intentionally inflicted on a person so as to obtain information from them constitutes torture.

Other forms of torture include punishing a person for an act he has committed or suspected of having committed by a public official or other persons acting in official capacity.

The recently enacted National Police Service Act outlaws torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of persons.

“A police officer who subjects a person to torture commits a criminal offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years,” it states.

Several victims of police torture narrated their nightmare in the hands of officers Tuesday and called calling more accountability in their conduct.

Josephine Njoroge, the wife to Joseph Njoroge who was a part of a group of taxi drivers slain by the police in Kawangware area, Nairobi asked the Judiciary to expedite their cases.

“Our husbands were killed innocently by the police officers. We want justice and hope that the police will become agents of positive change,” she said.

The taxi drivers were shot dead in March 2010 triggering days of protests in the area.

“A lot needs to be done to eliminate torture. It’s not just enough to outlaw it but justice must be done to the victims,” Judiciary’s Chief of Staff Duncan Okello said.

But IMLU noted that public confidence in the police has been eroded due to accusations of impunity, excessive use of force and disregard for human rights.

The organisation called for the speedy enactment of bills that would bring reforms in the police force.

The pending bills include The National Coroners Service Bill, National Security Council Bill and Prevention Against Torture Bill.



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