Shining a Light on Inhumanity

Jun 26, 2023 | Articles | 0 comments

Photo by Marcus Ganahl on Unsplash

This article was written by Binuel Phale to commemorate International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. He is a NOREC Exchange Participant (2023) based at Youth Alive! Kenya. He is a social worker and a human & nature rights advocate. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social work from the University of Malawi.

On 12 December 1997, through resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June 2023 as the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is a severe violation of human rights that deprives individuals of their freedom. The Kenyan constitution explicitly prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, Kenya is a signatory to international human rights treaties, including the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

Cases of torture in Kenya date back to the days of the Mau Mau revolt. The Mau Mau revolt or the Kenya State of Emergency was a war in British Kenya colony that took place from 1952 to 1960. During this period, people were arrested, beaten, and subjected to torture as part of the fight for independence. It is disheartening to note that even after almost 60 years of hard-earned independence, citizens of this country still fall victim to torture.

In recent years, various human rights organizations have documented reports of torture and ill-treatment. These reports have highlighted instances of torture primarily occurring in the context of law enforcement, including during arrests, detention, and interrogations. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), it was found that 30.3% of people in detention in various cells in Kenya had been victims of torture or ill-treatment, which indicated a 7% increase compared to the previous year’s survey. Additionally, between 2019 and 2021, IMLU documented 419 cases of torture, reflecting a significant increase of 296% compared to previous years.

In the year 2017, Kenya made a tremendous step in the enactment of the prevention of Torture Act and the National Coroners Service Act which were to ensure that perpetrators of torture and extra judicial killings are held accountable. However, these acts have not been fully implemented since their enactment according to the Joint Civil Society Organizations Shadow report submitted by the Independent Medico-legal Unit (IMLU). 

Victims of torture in this country have included criminal suspects, political dissidents, human rights defenders, and individuals from marginalized groups. The perpetrators of these acts have been both state agents, such as the police, military, and intelligence agencies, as well as non-state actors, including armed groups.

Should citizens be afraid of speaking out against injustice?How long will it take for this malpractice of ill treating people based on their backgrounds to come to an end? This day should therefore serve as a wake-up call for action from the government, civil society organizations (CSOs), and leaders to protect the people of Kenya from all forms of torture, whether inflicted by state or non-state agents.


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