Statement by the Kenya Human Rights Commission on the activity report of the chair of the committee of prevention of torture in Africa at the 60th session of the African Commission on human and people’s rights in Niamey, Niger

  1. Madam Chairperson, Honorable Commissioners, State Delegates, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me to begin by applauding the Commission and in particular the Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) for the launch of General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights focusing on the right to redress for victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.

 

  1. This general comment will go a long way in not only providing much needed guidance to mandate holders such as States, National Human Rights Institutions and National Preventive Mechanisms; but also civil society and other non-state actors involved in facilitating redress for victims of torture and other ill treatment. I consider this to be both timely and highly relevant for my country the Republic of Kenya that has a long history of litigation in pursuit of reparations by victims of torture and other ill treatment and now in light of our recently enacted Prevention of Torture Act.

 

  1. It is in this in light that I encourage the Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa to engage Kenya on the implementation of the general comment as part of operationalizing the Prevention of Torture Act. I do however note that the responsibility for implementation does not rest on the shoulders of the Commission alone or indeed those of the State. A strong collaboration between State and Non-State actors would be essential and in that regard I would propose the following:

 

  • That civil society as practitioners take the initiative to disseminate and sensitize the public on the General Comment by working closely with victims as well as mandate holders such as National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
  • That civil society utilizes the General Comment to strengthen the interventions they undertake in pursuit of redress such as litigation seeking reparations for victims as well as in their evaluation of State measures aimed at providing redress. This is also linked with utilizing the General Comment to strengthen policy and legislative advocacy in the arena of redress rights.
  • That the Commission makes reference to the General Comment in its decisions and other interactions with the State as well as work with civil society to exploit opportunities for sensitization in the context of country visits.
  • That the Commission, NHRIs and civil society collaborate towards the development of context specific indicators for the General Comment in addition to harnessing available good practices such as witness protection and rehabilitation models as well as compensation funds.

 

  1. Finally, while appreciating the prospects for progress presented by the Prevention of Torture Act, I must still call to the attention of the Commission the persistent challenges faced in combating torture and other ill treatment. Despite numerous commitments by the Attorney General, the payment of compensatory awards issued by the Courts in favor of victims of torture and ill treatment continues to be slow and arduous task for victims who feel re-victimized by the inability to enforce the court decisions. We urge the Commission to require the Kenyan government to provide it with a status update on the court awards issued and the status of their implementation.

 

  1. We continue to receive reports of persons in custody being subjected to torture and being denied access to medical care, family visits and visits by their legal representatives. While some reports have been forwarded to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) for investigation, such investigations are hampered by non-cooperation from the police service as well as threats and intimidation directed towards victims who report errant officers and also towards the human rights defenders who try to support them. We call on the Commission to call on the Kenyan government to accord the necessary political and financial support to the Independence Policing Oversight Authority and the Witness Protection Agency and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights as key instruments in facilitating redress for victims of torture and other ill treatment.

Thank you.


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