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Six freedom corner torture victims awarded Sh18m

By Paul Ogemba | January 26th 2017

Six women who were tortured for demanding the release of former political detainees have been awarded Sh18 million.

High Court judge John Mativo ruled that the General Service Unit (GSU) violated the women's rights when they rounded them up at Uhuru Park's freedom corner in March 1992 tortured them before forcefully ferrying them to their rural homes.

"You cannot take away the right of any citizen when they are lawfully exercising their right of expression and association. I find and hold that the police subjected the petitioners to inhuman and degrading treatment, which can only be paid through compensation," ruled Justice Mativo.

He said the women; Irene Gacheru, Lucy Murimi, Pauline Kamau, Anastasia Kimani, Esther Maina and Veronica Gichuru will each receive Sh3 million plus interest from the time they filed the suit in 2014.

The women claimed that on March 3, 1992, they assembled at Uhuru Park's freedom corner to peacefully agitate for the release of political detainees among them Koigi Wa Wamwere when the officers descended on them.

They submitted that the police bundled them into a vehicle and forcefully took them to their rural homes. They, however, returned to Nairobi only to be confined at the basement of All Saints Cathedral where police continued to torture them for a year.

Threat to security

The judge ruled that police humiliated the women by subjecting them to acts of torture when they were harmless and posed no danger to state security.

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"When citizens' rights are dashed and pushed back by members of the police force, there has to be a remedy and the Constitution is there as a protector to those whose rights are violated. Police should know that any citizen who is in their hands has not lost any of their rights," said Mativo.

The judge said police need to be fair to any suspect and are under obligation to protect the citizens' rights.

He added that the award was justified, saying the law is not only to civilise the public but to also ensure they live under a system that protects their interests and rights.

"The law exists to punish a wrongdoer and in this case, it is the State which is the wrongdoer. As a result, they must pay for the actions of their officers who instead of protecting people's rights became the tormentors," ruled Mativo.

Although the women had demanded to be paid Sh12 million each, the judge ruled that they did not present any quantum to justify the demands and that Sh3 million each was sufficient to compensate them for the suffering they underwent.

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