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Four young men, between the ages of 15 and 26, were rounded up on May 23, 2023 by a chief and an assistant chief as well as members of the Nyumba Kumi (community policing) group in Antubociu, Ndula Village, Meru County, and beaten severely to make them confess to stealing a goat belonging to one of the chiefs.

Several witnesses and victims claim they were frog-marched, stripped and extensively beaten with clubs and small wooden planks. Antubociu Chief’s Camp is where the torture took place.

As a result, 26-year-old Eric Muriira succumbed to his injuries. His body was found a day later, 10km away. Residents allege that a vehicle belonging to an officer was seen leaving the chief’s camp at dusk on May 23.

According to a pathologist report, Muriira was beaten with blunt objects in the lower and upper limbs causing extensive internal bleeding, which was the cause of death.

The chief and her assistant will be arraigned on June 12, 2023 over the killing of Muriira. However, in the interest of justice, they, along with those alleged to have participated in the torture and cover-up, are charged under the  Prevention of Torture Act (POTA).

Although POTA was passed into law in 2017, it is rarely used to hold suspects accountable, despite its ostensible purpose of reinforcing our constitutional and international obligations. The Act creates a framework for preventing, prohibiting and punishing such acts and reparations to victims.

The Constitution in Article 25 lists freedom from torture among the laws that cannot be limited under any circumstances, alongside access to justice, freedom from slavery and the right to habeas corpus.

Article 29 states that every person has the right not to be tortured in any way, whether physical or psychological, subjected to corporal punishment, or treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

419 cases of torture were documented by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit between 2019 and 2021. In addition, some of the worst cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have been accompanied by torture.

As detailed in postmortem reports and the confessions in the ‘Mavoko 3’ case, Willie Kimani, client Josephat Mwenda, and driver Joseph Muiruri suffered immensely before being murdered. Moreover, in 2019, former Ruaraka OCS Nahashon Mutua was sentenced to death for torturing inmate Martin Koome in the police cells.

POTA criminalises aiding and abetting torture and using any information obtained from it. As such, all the people involved in the torture of the four and the person who disposed of Muriira’s body broke the law.

Children are increasingly subjected to cruel, and unusual treatment and punishment, resulting in severe injuries and even death. Elizabeth Wairimu Gatimu, a former Deputy Principal at a Gatanga School, is facing murder charges concerning the death of Form One student Ebbie Noelle Samuels due to her hairstyle.

The DCI and ODPP claim an extensive, elaborate cover-up ploy was hatched to defeat justice. One of the testicles of a Standard Eight student in Nyamira County and one of a Form Four student in Kisii County were lost to injuries that occurred after they were beaten at school in April.

Due to the position of power that teachers hold, these school cases should be viewed through a torture lens.

We must do more to create awareness about torture in all its forms and to pass the message that our constitution prohibits torture for any reason, including obtaining information, punishment, intimidation or coercion, or any reason based on discrimination.

First published in The Standard on 9th June 2023. Kindly reproduced here with permission from The Standard.

Demas Kiprono is a human rights lawyer and a Campaign Manager at Amnesty International Kenya. He writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]

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