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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kenya: Nyayo House Torture Victims to Sue Wako over Awards

Kenneth Ogosia

21 August 2009

Nairobi — Mr Amos Wako is accused of disregarding and failing to act on court orders issued in favour of the victims in May last year.

The victims said the AG was a public servant legally ordered to comply, satisfy, and obey the court judgment that ordered the government to compensate them.They have filed a notice of intention to institute private prosecution against Mr Wako for failing to honour the awards given by various courts since 2006. The notice was filed at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Rumba Kinuthia, one of the victims' advocates, said the judgment was given in the presence of five State counsel, who were at liberty to appeal within 30 days, but failed to do so.

On July 14, the AG's office was required to approve and stamp the draft copy of the decree but allegedly declined.

However, the High Court went ahead and sealed and signed the decree, as provided for by the law.

"What pains us is that the AG has disobeyed court orders to pay deserving Nyayo House torture victims, while spending money on luxury projects. We have given the government notice that contempt proceedings shall be instituted," the victims said in a statement read by Mr Kinuthia.

Last year, Lady Justice Roselyne Wendoh of the High Court awarded Sh1.5 million each to seven victims who had sought redress four years ago. They were compensated for torture, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.

There are 24 cases pending and 58 others to be filed by detention and torture victims seeking justice.

Under former President Daniel Moi's leadership, government critics were arrested and held without trial in dark, water-logged cells for weeks with little food and water. The torture was perpetrated by the Directorate of State Intelligence, infamously known as the Special Branch.

The torture victims have requested President Kibaki to set up a tribunal to investigate Mr Wako. They also want him sacked or retired for impeding the payment of their compensation.

A petition listing 14 grounds on which Mr Wako should be investigated was delivered to the office of the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr Francis Muthaura, on July 28 and a copy sent to the permanent secretary in the office of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The petition, signed by lawyers Kinuthia and Gitau Mwara and the chairman of the victims' association, Mr Wachira Waheire, cites sections of the Constitution that empower the President to appoint a tribunal to investigate the Attorney General's exercise of office.

Lawyer Mwara said that they had met all the requirements proposed by former Justice minister Kiraitu Murungi in 2003, when it appeared that the government was willing to close the dark chapter in the country's history.

"But the remnants of the Moi regime are doing a lot to sabotage our efforts. However, the days of impunity are over. We expect Prime Minister Raila Odinga to take our plea seriously. We have notified the AG about the impending private prosecution," he said.

Mr Mwara is among former Nyayo House torture victims expected in Nyanza for the memorial service of Mzee Mbewa Ndede, one of the torture victims who died 10 years ago.

The harrowing stories of more than 40 victims who died in the torture chambers and hundreds who survived are now coming back to haunt President Kibaki's government, which first came to power in 2003 on the promise of reforms and compensation for the Second Liberation heroes.

Mzee Ndede was a close aide and confidant of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the doyen of opposition politics.

The Nyayo House basement chambers claimed people like Mr Peter Njenga Karanja, a businessman who was arrested from his Chelsea Coffee House in Nakuru on allegations of being a member of the clandestine Mwakenya movement.

In February 1987, Mr Karanja died from internal bleeding and open wounds after two weeks at Nyayo House.

The resulting public outcry and international condemnation forced the Moi government to concede to a government controlled inquest into his death.


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