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Kenya court awards compensation to Nyayo torture victims

Kenya's High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] ruled Wednesday that Kenyan authorities had violated the fundamental rights of 21 former political prisoners subjected to torture, awarding them Ksh 40 million (USD $500,000) in compensation. The former prisoners were held during the 1980s by the government of former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi [BBC profile], who ruled from 1978-2002, and subjected to torture in the Nyayo torture chambers. In finding that their rights had been violated, Judge Hannah Okwengu said that the government had violated their right to liberty and freedom from torture [BBC report]. The political prisoners alleged that during their time in detention they had been left in the chambers without food or water and had been hung from the ceiling and beaten by police after being charged with treason and associating with an unlawful society. The government argued that the lawsuit had been filed too late and the court should refer the case to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The court rejected both arguments, stating that the case was not within the jurisdiction of the commission. The suit was filed in 2004 after the original suit was postponed by the court in 1988, finding that they had to wait until the Moi regime had left power. The government will appeal the ruling [Daily Nation report].

The Kenyan government announced in November 2008 that it was taking initiatives to eliminate torture [JURIST report] and other inhumane treatment after the UN Committee on Torture [official website] released a report [text] on violence that occurred in the country in late 2007 and early 2008. The report highlighted cases of gender-based violence and gang rapes by police and other security forces, and discussed police corruption among other rights-related problems. Kenyan Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Martha Karua said that since 2003 the government has closed torture chambers, amended its criminal laws and made it easier to citizens to report abusive acts. The previous month, a commission established [JURIST report] by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [BBC profile] to review the events following the 2008 presidential election released a report recommending the establishment of an international tribunal [JURIST report] to try those involved. Kibaki created the commission to ease the domestic and international tension that was a result of the controversial election [JURIST report], including threats from 13 nations to cut off aid to the Kenyan government [JURIST report].

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