Lobby calls for justice as police torture survivors recall ordeal

James Mwaura who claims to have been tortured by police in Joska, Machakos county weeps at a Nairobi hotel on Monday, June 26, 2023, during the international day in support of victims of torture. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

It was an emotional moment for victims of police brutality as they recounted what they have undergone at the hands of officers.

As the world commemorated the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, survivors and families whose kin have been tortured or killed by police officers, told of physical and psychological pain they have gone through.

James Mwaura, a torture survivor narrated how in June 2021, his grandson was arrested by police outside their home compound for contravening the Covid-19 curfew restrictions.

“My nephew was pinned down by police and they were roughing him up. One of them hit me with a pistol after I questioned why they were beating him,” he said.

He added; “I called the OCS to report and he dismissed me. He told me to seek medical help if I had been beaten. I got a blood clot in my head.”

The grandson was arraigned two days later but he was released on Sh200,000 bond. However, Mwaura’s condition worsened and he was referred to Ruai Referral Hospital Level Four Hospital and later to Kenyatta National Hospital.

Rosemary Nyaga, a victim of police torture, narrated how breaking up her 20-year marriage led to her suffering in police custody in Embu.

“We had separated with my husband for a week and one-day police officers came to my farm and started beating me up for no reason. They stopped after neighbours intervened, but I was taken to the police station,” said Nyaga.

She would later be tortured in a police cell after it emerged she had reported the matter to Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA). 

The two among other victims, spoke on Tuesday, June 27, at the commemoration of the international day in Nairobi convened by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU).

It emerged that cases of police brutality against citizens are steadily increasing despite the public declaration by President William Ruto of an end to extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances.

Isabella Obara, a lawyer at IMLU, said trumped-up charges against victims of torture has been a tactic used by police officers to frustrate cases of torture filed against them.

“There has been retaliation and the state that is supposed to ensure the safety of victims of torture has systematically enhanced revenge against them,” she said.

The victims mentioned how police had filed cases in court against them to cover up for their actions.

“This has made victims coil, they don’t record statements and they withdraw traction in court due to fear and anxiety,” she added.

“The government has deprioritised torture because it is still being used as a tool to fight anyone questioning those in power. Our concern is torture will be used politically and economically,” Obara added.

IMLU urged the government to set aside a victims’ fund to enhance the compensation of torture survivors who win cases in court.

“We have documented cases of torture successfully prosecuted in court, and victims awarded are not paid at all,” said IMLU executive director Peter Kiama.

Mr Kiama said the government owes victims of torture more than Sh30 million as compensation awarded by courts.

Further, he said lack of efficient mechanisms to protect victims and witnesses has denied them justice.

“The system is structured in a manner that allows officers to perpetrate torture and extrajudicial killings through use of excessive force and firearms,” he said.

“The best way of healing is preventing torture from happening because the cases have not stopped even in this government,” he added.

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