Kenya: Committee Against Torture's recommendations to Kenyan state

The UN Committee Against Torture issues recommendations addressing the economic, social and cultural root causes of violence in Kenya as well as specific forms of torture and ill-treatment against women and children.
The Committee Against Torture (CAT) has concluded its 41st session and issued recommendations to the Government of Kenya aimed at addressing torture and reducing levels of violence. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) welcomes the endorsement of a number of measures included in the two alternative reports it submitted to the Committee together with its national partners.
These two reports were prepared as complementary documents on specific issues. One was prepared together with the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya) and is entitled “Addressing the Economic, Social and Cultural Root Causes of Torture in Kenya”. The report was produced following a preparatory mission that involved a series of meetings and fora with local communities. This was aimed at bringing to the Committee the voice of the many Kenyans who not only live in poverty, but also risk becoming victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. This report also provides facts and figures on the link between the incidence of torture and denials of economic, social and cultural rights. It demonstrates that in Kenya the poor and the marginalised are the most vulnerable to torture and that the issue of land as well as other socio-economic factors are frequently the root causes of torture.

The other OMCT report, entitled “Violence Against Women and Children in Kenya”,[1] was prepared together with the large Coalition of Child Rights NGOs (CRC) and the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW). It addresses widespread forms of violence against women and children and their underlying causes, and analyses the shortcomings of the implementation of the Convention Against Torture in respect to gender- and child-specific issues. This report gives particular emphasis to protection from torture and other forms of ill-treatment including harmful cultural practices, domestic violence, trafficking in women and children, sexual abuse, child corporal punishment and child labour. It also raises serious concerns regarding women’s access to justice and juvenile justice, including the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

OMCT and its national partners wish to draw attention to the observations and recommendations made by the Committee, and in particular that:

- the Committee identifies the links between violence and denials of economic, social and cultural rights by emphasising, “the persistent linkage between widespread violence and torture by state agents and the problem of land in the State party. The lack of access to land, paired with other social and economic injustices, are frequently considered as root causes of torture and violence.”

- the Committee, reflecting the call by OMCT and its national partners for the establishment of an Office of Public Defender, recommends, “the State party to take all necessary measures to ensure that the lack of resources is not an obstacle to accessing justice. The State party should urgently implement the recently established national legal aid scheme, which could be accompanied by the setting up of an Office of Public Defender […]. The State party should also reform the bail system currently in place with a view to ensuring that it is more reasonable and affordable.”

- the Committee is concerned at, “the common practice of unlawful and arbitrary arrest by the police and the widespread corruption among police officers, which particularly affects the poor living in urban neighbourhoods. […] The Committee urges the State party to address the problem of arbitrary police actions, including unlawful and arbitrary arrest and widespread police corruption, particularly in slums and poor urban neighbourhoods”. This point was particularly underlined during the OMCT preparatory mission to Kenya by representatives of residents of informal settlements who denounced police arbitrary actions, illegal arrests and harassment in poor areas.

- the Committee expresses concerns, “about reports of the use of excessive force, sometimes resulting in violent deaths, by the police during evictions”.

- the Committee notes, “with concern the persistence of widespread violence against women and children in Kenyan society, including sexual exploitation and trafficking, as well as the high levels of impunity for such crimes”, and recommends, as a matter of urgency, that the State party, “take all necessary legal and administrative measures to protect women and children from all forms of violence. In particular, the Committee encourages the State party to facilitate the access to justice for women. […] The State party should ensure that all necessary steps to file a complaint are facilitated, including access to medical assessment”.

- the Committee calls upon the State party to take all necessary steps to eradicate FGM, “including through the intensification of nationwide awareness raising campaigns, and to punish the perpetrators of such acts”.

- the Committee is deeply concerned that the age of criminal responsibility is set at eight years, and recommends the State party to raise, “as a matter of urgency, the minimum age of criminal responsibility in order to bring it in line with the generally accepted international standards.”

OMCT and its national partners now encourage the Government of Kenya and Kenyan Civil Society to work together in order to follow-up the recommendations adopted and to take concrete measures aimed at addressing the concerns expressed by the Committee Against Torture.

28 November 2008

[1] This report will be posted shortly on the OMCT website