The Kenyan High Court has awarded four million Kenyan shillings to each of four survivors of sexual violence committed during political violence in Kenya 12 years ago.
Judge Weldon Korir said on Thursday the award he had ordered was general damages for the violation of the four petitioners’ constitutional rights. Judge Korir said he determined the award after concluding that the government had failed in its “positive obligation to investigate and prosecute violations” committed during the violence that erupted after the December 2007 presidential election.
Korir also found that the government had failed to protect the four petitioners’ right to life and right to security during the post-election violence period of December 2007 to February 2008.
Thursday’s brief hearing was held virtually with Judge Korir and a court officer as the only ones in court. The judge read out his conclusions in court, saying the full judgment was lengthy and would be sent later in the day to the different legal teams.
“That is a very good judgment and it is a victory for victims of sexual violence … For the first time we are having a judicial pronouncement that recognises that victims of sexual violence were violated and their rights were infringed in the period 2007-2008 during the post-election violence and through this, in my view, the court is giving survivors of sexual violence a voice,” Willis Otieno, the lawyer for the petitioners told the International Justice Monitor.
Symbolically, Judge Korir read out the orders in his judgment on the last day of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Judge Korir said he was awarding general damages of four million Kenyan shillings each (about $35,800 US dollars at current exchange rates) to the fifth, sixth, eighth and nineth petitioners. He also directed the Attorney General, who is listed as the first respondent to the petition, to pay the costs of the petition for the fifth, sixth, eighth and nineth petitioners. He said everyone else would bear their own costs.
“Moving forward we hope the state will investigate and prosecute the acts of violation and criminal activities that were committed against victims of sexual violence during the post-election violence (of 2008). We are very happy with the judgment and we look forward to cooperating with the state to ensure its full implementation,” said Otieno.
The Attorney General’s Office was not immediately available for comment.
Korir’s judgment was delivered on Thursday in response to a petition filed by eight survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in 2013. In their petition, the six women and two men asked the High Court of Kenya to find, among other things, that the government failed to protect them during the violence that wracked Kenya between December 2007 and February 2008.
Four organisations are also petitioners in this case, these are: Coalition on Violence Against Women ; Physicians for Human Rights ; the Independent Medico-Legal Unit; and the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists .
Four of the respondents to the petition are government ministries or offices the Attorney General represented in the case. These are the Attorney General’s Office; the Inspector General of Police; the Ministry of Medical Services and Ministry of Public Health. Since the petition was filed in February 2013 the two ministries have been merged to form the Ministry of Health. The other two respondents are the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).
This case has been heard at the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court over the past seven years. Five judges have presided over the case at different times. Judges handling the case have changed over the years because they were posted to other courts or promoted. The petitioners presented 16 witnesses. The last witness for the petitioners to testify was Betty Murungi, a women’s rights and sexual violence expert. Murungi testified on August 30, 2016.
The ODPP called one witness, Jacinta Nyaboke Nyamosi. She testified on March 29, 2017 and April 19, 2017. Nyamosi is a senior prosecutor and she was the only witness called to testify in the case by any of the respondents.