In Nairobi, civil society organizations (CSOs) led by the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), and Release Political Prisoners (RPP) came together to commemorate the day. Others included the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya Chapter and state human rights body, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
According to the press statement read by the CSOs on Sunday, as the world marks the 13th anniversary of IDSVT, the survivors of torture and victims’ families have nothing to celebrate. The statement further says that as prescribed by the resolution, this day is marked by ceremony and activities across the world with the aim of supporting victims of tortu re; fighting forces of impunity that tolerate and perpetuate torture; safeguarding the gains made in the fight against torture and also make significant policy strides on matters of torture.
Indeed after addressing the media, CSOs gathered at Uhuru Park’s Freedom corner to lead a caravan that visited various ‘monuments of shame’ key among them is the notorious Nyayo House torture chambers. Here candles were lit in solidarity with the torture victims who were detained at Nyayo House during the 1990s. Nyayo House is the Nairobi province headquarters and of the National Security and Intelligence Service (NSIS), formerly known as the Special Branch of the police. Many of the torture victims during the Moi regime, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, were detained and tortured there.
Paul Amina, freelance journalist, and one of the Nyayo House torture survivors, addressing the gathering in front Nyayo House told journalists that he was arrested for covering the court case of one of the Mwakenya activists in August 1991. Mwakenya was labelled a “dangerous subversive group” that the Moi regime had outlawed. According to Amina, after being arrested he was taken to Nyayo House where he was detained for two days without food or water while being tortured to confess to being a member of the outlawed Mwakenya. Indeed, according to a KHRC report, Independent Without Freedom: The Legitimization of Repressive Laws and Practices in Kenya, Nairobi;KHRC, 1994p.27, critics of the Moi- KANU ( Kenya African National Union, the then ruling party in the single party system) regime mostly students, academicians and civilians would be arrested, tortured in different places and then tak en to court to answer charges of being members of an outlawed organization Mwakenya.
Amina was later transferred to Kamiti Maximum prison, where inmates serving sentences for capital offenses are held and later on released.
Joe Njoroge, another torture Nyayo House torture survivor narrated how he was detained in 1990 for one month in Nyayo house then moved to Kamiti where he was remanded for one year. He was arrested for sedition, th evidence of which was being in possession of 800 copies of a magazine known as the African Event, which was published in London. The ‘offending’ article was titled ‘Mwakenya Demands: the Demans of Kenya.’ Like others taken to Nyayo House, he was tortured with darkness, nakedness and lack of food and water. He was later to be result when the Attorney General Amos Wako entered a nolle prosequi in the case and the case was withdrawn.
Some of the torture survivors in the caravan expressed anger at what appears to be a government attempt to destroy the torture chambers some of which are now being used for storage purposes. The chambers must remain as they were as a monument of shame so Kenyans never forget the dark era of the Moi-KANU regime.
The CSOs further stated that it was regrettable that as we mark the IDSVT, there were 42 Kenyans waking up in pain in their hospital beds in Nairobi and Mombasa as a result of s tate perpetrated torture. “This year alone over 200 hundred cases of torture have been reported, and over 50 cases of proven extra judicial killings. This sad state of affairs is the reality in which we live and all of us remain potentially victims of torture. These trends have long been the tragedy of our national history. These evil and immoral matters of torture must STOP NOW! These victims of torture in our midst are a sad reminder that the police force/service must make a choice in the service of Kenya. Citizens must no longer suffer in the hands of those who are presumed protectors and enforcers of the law,” the statement further said.
The caravan then snaked its way into the Eastlands side of Nairobi, where most torture victims today either hail from or where their bodies are found dumped, specifically at the Dandora informal settlement dumpsite, after extrajudicial execution. In addition, the statement singled out some police stations as being infamous for extra judicial executions. These include Dandora Police Station, Kinyago Police post, Shauri Moyo among others and are located within Eastlands area where the caravan passed through. A new trend is emerging in the Kibaki era where torture victims are no longer the middle class university students, dissenting legislators, university lecturers and other professionals. Most torture victims today come from low income segments of the society. According to the CSO’s statement, torture in the present times is a consequence and a result of poverty.
In fact the report by the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston which investigated extrajudicial killings that have been carried out by Kenyan police revealed damning state of affairs in Kenya. The report alleged that police are carrying out executions at will even among suspected criminals who have surrendered. "Killings by the police in Kenya are systematic, widespread and carefully planned. They are committed at will and with utter impunity," stated part of the Philip Alston report.
The civil society has also noted that trends are quickly changing such that even acid is now used after executions in an attempt to destroy evidence. This is the sad reality in Ken ya even to this day. Despite the expanded Bill of Rights in the new Constitution, there has never been a reduction in the level of human rights violations. The cold reality is that cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances have been rising. “Today we join together to affirm our faith in the strength of our constitution and the letter of our national anthem,” the CSO statement further says.
In Dandora Secondary School, members of the public joined the caravan and were addressed by both the members of the civil society and some of the survivors of torture. Declarations were made to be vigilant that the gains offered in the new Constitution that safeguard the right of every person to be guaranteed, by demanding government accountability.
In conclusion, the CSO statement noted that the Bill of Rights is clear, that among the fundamental rights and freedoms that may not be limited is the right to life, and it is a serious offence to cause death of another person through an unlawful act or omission. Extraj udicial killings have become rampant, perpetrated mainly by units formed to fight organised criminal gangs like the Mungiki. “The police initially said that lack of proper legislation was hindering the fight against outlawed sects. Now that we have strong legislation, due process of the law should be followed. According to Legal Notice No 162, the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, 2010 came into operation on September 23.”