Kamukunji residents receive free legal advice

mo-kamukunjiA three day legal aid activity in Kamukunji organized by Kituo Cha Sheria ended on 15th September, 2016 at Muyuyu, Eastleigh Third Avenue where over 110 clients were attended to by Kituo lawyer Maureen Thuo and Paralegals from the Kamukunji Community Justice Centre.

Previously Legal Aid clinics were held at Kiambui, PAG church which saw 110 clients attended to and at the Assistant Chief’s camp, opposite California Police station in California ward where over 60 clients were attended to. A total of over 280 clients, drawn from various parts of Kamukunji Sub County were attended to during the entire three – part legal aid clinic activity.

Addressing the participants yesterday, Airbase Location chief, Minicah Hamisi Otieno welcomed and appreciated the initiative by Kituo Cha Sheria, coming to the grassroots and helping community members. She encouraged residents to feel free to present their legal questions or problems saying that the lawyer and paralegals present could help and save them a great deal since the services were free.

Kamukunji Community Justice Centre Cordinator, Ezekiel Njenga thanked Kituo staff who participated in the activities and paralegals from the centre for having contributed greatly to the success of the activity. “We started on a little bit low note in Kiambiu but I am happy we are finishing on a high note here at Muyuyu, Eastleigh. Throughout the process, we have learnt various lessons and we have room for improvement next time,” he said
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Nuria Abdi, a resident at Muyuyu, Eastleigh confirmed that residents in the area have got many problems that require legal help/advice. According to her, family and marital problems were top on the list affecting residents (including her) in the area.

“We hope that the intervention by Kituo will at least see us breathe a sigh of relief and hope for tangible legal help since our efforts to local authorities and even the police have proved futile,” she said. She remembers her husband leaving her in April this year for another woman within the same locality. The husband, whom she identified as Abdikadir chased her away with their three young children from the house claiming that Nuria had continually given birth to girls whereas he wished to have boys.

Since then, Nuria, who is currently pregnant, has been living in abject poverty with her three children. She says getting the daily food is a hurdle, leave alone school fees for her children.
Nuria compares the life she and her children are living to that of an asylum seeker. She says many more women experience the same problem in the area and it is their hope that the intervention of Kituo Cha Sheria will offer a ray of hope in salvaging them and restoring, dignity and womanhood to them. The CRADLE-The Children’s Foundation joined Kituo at Muyuyu, Eastleigh to deal with children rights matters.

Kituo Cha Sheria.

We Care for Justice

Bringing ‘Haki Mkononi’ to Mombasa

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On 6th and 7th September, 2016 Kituo conducted training on M-Haki for volunteer advocates and community paralegals from the Coast region. The advocates were drawn from Malindi and Mombasa and paralegals from our justice centres in Lamukhani, Kwale County and Kisauni in Mombasa.

The successful trainings were held at the Bliss Resort in Mombasa and are meant to introduce our key stakeholders to M-Haki as Kituo cha Sheria is piloting the M-Haki platform to promote access to justice through which Kenyans can access legal aid through mobile phones, using the number 0700 777 333. M-Haki seeks to reduce the time and distance taken to access legal advice-Haki Mkononi!

The M-Haki message in the region was also taken to the people in the region on Baraka FM ahead of upcoming community outreach forums.

We Care for Justice.

RCKM.

Kituo Cha Sheria.

 

Kituo Cha Sheria Celebrates Anne Orindi – a Grassroots Justice Champion

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“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” – Brodi Ashton, Everneath

Goal 16 of the sustainable development goals speaks to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In promoting access to justice at the grassroots level, Kituo Cha Sheria works with trained community paralegals – men and women doing sterling pro-bono work within their communities.

These dedicated and remarkable people generously donate their time, expertise, and energy to help close the gap in access to justice by offering credible and accountable legal aid services to indigent persons within their society. Our community paralegals bring Article 48 of the Constitution of Kenya to life at the grassroots level; Anne Orindi of the Nyando Community Justice Centre (Kisumu County) was one such champion. She passed on earlier this month and shall be laid to rest on 3rd September, 2016.

Access to justice is a very important judicial element and it is through access to justice that remedies can be availed to the people. In rural Kenya; where a high number of people live below the poverty line there is a notion among the economically challenged that justice is unachievable for the poor. The work of these community justice champions and the incorporation of traditional and community based mechanisms of dispute resolution methods is an important step in bringing justice to the people. This is especially viable in the rural areas where traditional structures are still intact.

Whether through leading workshops, training communities, building networks or sharing knowledge with fellow justice sector players, community paralegals give hope and encouragement where hope is sometimes all but lost in pursuit of justice.

Community paralegals go the extra mile in doing their work, in some cases more than other permanent staff.

Community paralegals are highly dedicated people, highly motivated by the desire to make tangible contributions to their communities by reaching the vulnerable and marginalized. They continuously develop their capacities to participate actively and constructively in the promotion of access to justice. We celebrate our grassroots justice champions!

RCKM

Kituo Cha Sheria

We care for justice.

Kituo in Kisumu

KituoKisumu

During the week of 22nd -26th August 2016 Kituo Cha Sheria was in Kisumu County for a series of activities. Through the support of the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi Kituo conducted M-Haki market research and awareness, trained volunteer advocates in Kisumu and visited the Kodiaga Prison Justice Centre.

The Kisumu Region Community M-Haki piloting sessions and market research were held on 23rd August and 26th August in CREP Programme Centre in Awasi and the Manyatta Community Social Centre (Kosawo Hall) in Kondele respectively. The sessions held in Nyando and Kisumu introduced members of the public in the region to the M-Haki platform and will serve Kituo in gathering information on the situational analysis of legal justice in the region.

On 25th August at the Le Savannah Country Lodge in Kisumu; Kituo had the opportunity to engage about 20 volunteer advocates from the area on the M-Haki platform as well as getting their views on matters access to justice in the region.

On the 24th August 2016, the Dutch embassy officials and Kituo members of staff visited the Kodiaga Prison Justice Center to check on the center’s progress, get progress updates from the center as well as note the challenges that the center may be experiencing one year after its launch. The prison centre is run by trained prison paralegals that have filed 185 petitions of appeal and managed 38 acquittals within the year from within prison. The few noted challenges will be addressed for smooth running of the center.

Other successful outreach activities included 3 radio talk shows across the week meant to create further awareness on the M-Haki platform and the realization of an increased number of people using the service. The successful radio programs were conducted at Urban Radio 90.7 FM in Kisumu and Radio Nam Lolwe.

Kituo cha Sheria

We Care for Justice.

Kituo in Kisumu

KituoKisumuM-Haki Kisumu County (Kisumu, Nyando, Awasi) Market Research, K’odiaga Justice Centre Visit and Volunteer Advocates Training.

Starting on the 22nd to the 26th August, 2016 Kituo Cha Sheria and The Royal Dutch Embassy in Kenya shall be in Kisumu County (Kisumu, Nyando, Awasi) for various activities. The week-long activities include market research and community outreach on M-Haki, visit to the K’odiaga Justice Centre and a volunteer advocates’ training in Kisumu. Also scheduled are radio sessions on Urban Radio 90.7 and Radio Nam Lolwe to augment the legal empowerment message in the region.

Some inmates are behind bars because they cannot afford advocates-, do not know how to represent themselves and are intimidated by the Courts. A fact finding mission conducted by Kituo advocates in 2015 revealed that K’odiaga had more remandees than any other prison.

On the 27th of July –  5th of August , 2015 Kituo cha Sheria, in partnership with ICJ-K, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Haki Mashinani and LRF  empowered prisoners and prison warders at the Kisumu Main Prison(K’odiaga) on the criminal trial process and self-representation  so that they can in turn offer legal aid services to the wider K’odiaga prison community. Access to justice is a right guaranteed for all in the Constitution.

One year later Kituo makes a follow-up trip to K’odiaga to see the progress made by the prison justice center and see legal empowerment in motion. The prison community got legal empowerment on how to conduct self-representation in court, how to adduce evidence if any, how to cross examine witnesses, how to write their submissions, how to make mitigation statements, how to make interim applications such as those for bond, bail, certificates, how to request for documents and how to lodge a complaint against judicial officers.

The prison officers were educated and capacity built on the Constitution, laws governing prisons and general administration of justice. They were also trained on how to draft pleadings to enable them assist the inmates, those on remand or in custody.

Kituo cha Sheria.

We Care for Justice

Kituo Cha Sheria Launches the Meru G.K. Prison Justice Center

MERU1Kituo Cha Sheria welcomed the Meru Main GK Prison Justice Center to the family of legal empowerment centers on the 10th August, 2016. The Center was launched after a paralegal training on Criminal law and procedures was conducted from the 1st to 9th of August 2016 at the Prison facility.

August 10 is the International Prisoners Justice Day and this year the day was marked under the theme of Access to Justice toward decongestion of prisons. One of the goals of Kituo’s prison paralegal trainings is to decongest correctional facilities by empowering the prisoners and remandees on self-representation in court, how to adduce evidence if any, how to cross examine witnesses, how to write their submissions, how to make mitigation statements, how to make interim applications such as those for bond, bail and making applications for Community Service Order.

The following topics covered were; Basics of Paralegalism, Introduction to Human Rights, Bill of Rights (Chapter 4 of Constitution), Criminal Procedure Code Chapter 75 Laws of Kenya, Powers of Court, Provisions relating to all Criminal investigations, Mode of taking and recording Evidence in Trials, Procedures in Trials before a Subordinate Court and High Court, Sentences and Executions, Appeals, Self representation (Criminal Approach), Power of Mercy Act, The Prisons Act and Community Service Order.

The training was conducted by Kituo lawyers Maureen Thuo and Ashioya Biko together with Kituo Volunteer Advocates within Meru. The training on Community Service Order was an important session as the inmates were taken through the process of applying for a community service as it presents some inmates with the option of serving from outside hence decongesting the prison. The newly acquired knowledge on the Bail and Bond Guidelines was equally important in the process of decongestion. Giving inmates the tools to represent themselves in legal matters will increase access to justice and also empowers inmates to challenge situations of injustice and abuse of certain rights inside the prison.

Bringing prison constables on board was also important in creating awareness on inmate’s rights and their obligations to ensure the rights of the inmates are protected as well as offer oversight in ensuring that prison paralegals work with the officers and raise awareness about the activities of the paralegals in prison.

The eventful ceremony was witnessed by representatives from partner organizations and agencies including the Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), CEFA, EU, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), ICJ-Kenya, Haki Mashinani and Embassy of the Netherlands.

A total of 37 participants were trained, 30 of whom were inmates and 7 prison constables. The inmates comprised of those on long sentences, pre-trial detainees charged with capital offences as well as the condemned. Kituo urges the trained paralegals from Meru to work hard and use skills they have acquired to benefit themselves and fellow inmates.

Kituo Cha Sheria

We Care for Justice

Extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya;knee jerk reactions and their futility.

willie-kimani-protests“It used to be that a man could keep out of trouble if he behaved himself. Now he will only keep out of trouble if he behaves himself, (and) if the police behave themselves . . . . ..” 
― 
Agona ApellThe Success Genome Unravelled: Turning Men from Rot to Roc

It is a pattern often seen many a time before.

Abductions, mysterious disappearances/imprisonment often followed by the death of certain individuals in jaded and grey situations. The public is outraged. The media is attentive to every detail of the latest disappearance/extra-judicial killing. Task forces are formed, the police are indignant in the defense of their integrity. Finally, the matter is laid to rest, the death becoming little more than a statistic.

The latest death that prompted exceptional rage involved the shooting of a city High Court advocate.Willy Kimani was representing Josephat Mwendwa,a motor cycle taxi driver who had filed a complaint that he had been shot and injured by police in April of this year.

Following the complaint, Mwendwa was subject to extreme harassment by the police. Finally, as has happened countless of times in this country to persons critical of the government and the police, he “disappeared” alongside Willy Kimani and a Taxi Driver who had picked them up on 23rd June 2016, after attending a court hearing in Machakos County, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Witnesses said they saw the lawyer and his client in a basement cell of a local police station shortly after the hearing. They Disappeared.

The audacity of the police in picking up the lawyer and his client right outside the court house in the brazen manner in which they were taken into custody speaks volumes about the situation in our country as far as extra-judicial killings go.

Are there plausible solutions?

  1. The carrot – Stick Approach.

“The British have been funding police reform in Kenya since the early 1990s. They have been pumping money in for that long and had no results and. . . That risk simply strengthening the culture of impunity. You can’t keep on giving carrots. Eventually you need a stick.” Maina Kiai, Human Rights Lawyer.

Perhaps it is time donor countries and groups that financially support the Security Forces in this country develop a firmer system of accountability whereby results are coherent and visible. A good example would be the British Government that has been supporting the Kenya Police to promote Police Reform and strengthen accountability and improve compliance with international human rights standards.

The United Nations has also extensively supported police reform projects in the country. It is not however, an effective method of achieving the same without demanding some sort of visible change. It would seem to the outside eye that things have inadvertently gotten worse. It should be a give and take sort of relationship.

  1. Strong governmental support.

In more mature democracies, Cabinet Secretaries resign voluntarily whenever their leadership comes into public question. One can hardly say the same for most African nations, Kenya included.

The current Cabinet Secretary in charge of security affairs and others before him have constantly derided the need for reform, casually chiding any instance of Police Enforced deaths and Disappearances with the phrase “investigations are on-going”. They seem to go on with no result in sight in every single instance.

Therefore it would almost seem that these extra-judicial killings and sudden disappearances do indeed have the backing or rather the acquiescence of the Executive.

The president also has a role in that under the constitution, the president has the power to dismiss an incompetent Cabinet Secretary. This is after the convening of a select committee of the National Assembly and its finding of sufficient grounds of dismissal. So why isn’t it happening already? That is a question that begs an answer.

The International Criminal Court had remarked, in the recently concluded cases against the President and the Deputy President that the level of government interference was unprecedented.

Witnesses were brutally intimidated and many were forced to recant their statements, others being found dead.

Without the government’s commitment and good will very little can be achieved. .and the status quo shall remain. Worst case scenario, it may get even worse than it already is if that is even possible.

  1. Structural reform.

Reform must be visible, and that means the clinical approach to removal of bad apples within the security forces….starting from the lowest level officer to indeed the inspector General himself.

The grounds for the removal of the Inspector General are clearly set out in the constitution. Most grounds are based on the central theme of misbehavior. However there is one specific ground that reads “any other just cause”. This implies that something as serious as the topic of discussion in this article is a sufficient reason for the removal of the current Inspector General.

With regards to the specific officers involved in such actions, It is not enough for the public to hold trials on social media and the Police Department to perform public relations stunts. There must be tangible action. By tangible I mean trials of the officers involved in such offences. Their dismissal or suspension and if possible, use of their own private funds to compensate the families of the victims involved. All this must be in public as it will act as a deterrement to all rogue officers and that it can no longer be business as usual.

Kenya is not police /military state. The Security Forces are servants of the people and should not be at war with them. There is still hope. However, change must be prompt and swift…with the goodwill of the State.

Samantha Oswago

LAED-Kituo Cha Sheria

UN Human Rights Review Meeting

Adika meetingImage:Stakeholders posing for a group photo after the review meeting.

Stakeholders from the Coast region, drawn from all coastal counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta held a meeting to review the Universal Periodic Implementation Matrix 2015 – 2019 on June 29th. The Universal Periodic Review is a peer review mechanism of United Nations Human Rights Council that examines the Human Rights Performance of all United Nations member states. Its goal is to improve Human Rights standards in all countries and it is reviewed once every four years.

The meeting was attended by 30 participants, majority of them were employees of the County Governments while the rest were from the Civil Societies and the academia in the region. Discussions were centered around the issue of Human rights with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights taking centre-stage. Various human rights related issues emerged from the Coast including; extra-judicial killings, disappearances and radicalization, labour issues and matters in the mining industry especially in Taita-Taveta and Kwale Counties.

Giving the opening remarks, Hon. Mary Ndiga, the Deputy Governor, Taita Taveta County called on all players to protect and uphold Human Rights in their working areas. She reiterated the need for all stakeholders to work closely together in ensuring that human rights are respected.

Ms. Maureen Mwadime of the Commission explained that in order to conduct their work effectively, they have ensured implementation of integrated Public Complaint Mechanism. This is a system which enables referral of cases to different organizations. The system allows an organization which receives a matter that they do not deal with but which can be handled with a sister body, to transfer the same to the alternative agency.

Mr. Rono, also from the Commission led the participants in the discussion of the Universal periodic Review Implementation Matrix where key topics were discussed among them: Legal and institutional reforms, Civil and political rights, Economic, social and cultural rights and Group rights.

He further explained that Kenya was reviewed in January 2015 and as a result, some recommendations were made. Based on the recommendations, the Government developed the implementation matrix 2015-2019 for the next four and a half years to ensure their implementation, especially those accepted by the Government.

Zedekiah Adika.

Kituo Cha Sheria-Mombasa.

Mandatory anal examinations in Kenya; Outdated and Horrific

Opinion

A Kenyan Court ruled that the use of anal examinations is legal after two men accused of being homosexuals were subjected to the tests. The two men had brought a case to the High Court in Mombasa on Thursday, 16th June 2016 calling for anal examinations on alleged homosexuals to be declared unconstitutional.

“There was no other way evidence could have been obtained “ruled Mombasa Judge Matthew Emukule.

“I find no violation of human dignity, right to privacy and right to freedom of the petitioners”, said the judge.

In the case before the high court in Mombasa, Kenya, two men identified in the petition as C.O.I. and G.M.N., allege that doctors at Mombasa’s Coast General Provincial Hospital, in collaboration with law enforcement officials, violated their rights by subjecting them to forced anal examinations, HIV tests, and other blood tests in February 2015.

Judge Matthew Emukule at the High Court in Mombasa ruled on 16th June 2016 that there were sufficient grounds in Kenyan law for using the examinations to gather medical evidence of crimes including rape and sodomy, which are illegal in the country.

The petitioners have filed an appeal against the judgment.

The Law and Homosexuality.

In Kenya, where homosexuality is criminalized, men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is essentially medically and forensically worthless and has been dismissed as such in UN Documentation. Both the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims have condemned the practise.

Decreased anal sphincter pressure, which is what such exams are looking for, can be caused by a wide range of conditions from chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome to Parkinson’s disease. Therefore this form of examination cannot be used as a basis for proving Homosexual sexual relations.

The law provides in sections 162-165 of the Penal Code, that private, consensual homosexual sex between adults or attempts thereof, is punishable with up to 14 years in jail.

However;

Forced anal exams violate the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Convention on Human and Peoples’ Rights, all of which are treaties that Kenya has ratified. Additionally, under international law and Kenya’s Sexual Offenses Act, any form of unwanted penetration during the examinations constitutes sexual assault and possibly rape.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture states that these exams amount to “torture or ill treatment ’’and may be considered a form of  sexual assault  and rape.

Furthermore, in April 2015, the High Court ruled that sexual orientation is constitutionally protected from discrimination and ordered the NGO Board to register the National Gay and Human Rights Commission.

Whether this law should be repealed remains a matter of public debate. It is important to note that laws were made by the societies they developed in, and not the other way around. Ours is not to berate the law as it stands, but to condemn the application of forced anal examination. It is horrific that such intrusion of another’s person still takes place under the guise of the law.

The very fact that multiple people were allowed to violate another human being in such a manner is unacceptable. The issue here is much larger than an instance of the “pro-gay agenda “as many have wrongfully labelled it. This was clearly a gross human rights violation.

Retrogressive ,homophobic practise

The fact that the Courts have decided to validate this violent practice is woefully unfortunate. It is retrogressive and is indeed a misguided step in the wrong direction. The violation of human dignity in this unfortunate scenario is not a matter of JUST sexuality .It is a matter of one thing all human beings are entitled to inherently by virtue of being human. Those are human rights.

Still, we have noted that the terror, fear and discrimination continues unabated even against the ruling in April, when the High Court was asked to cure the mischief in our laws, to stop pruning the branches of the poisonous tree and simply uproot it all together. The High Court being responsive ruled that sexual orientation is constitutionally protected from discrimination.

By

Samantha Oswago.

LAED-Kituo Cha Sheria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kituo at the Mathare Legal Aid and Human Rights Advocacy (MLAHRA) Youth Forum

MLAHRA 1On June 30th 2016 Kituo joined the Mathare Legal Aid and Human Rights Advocacy (MLAHRA) and the youth of Mathare drawn from Mashimoni, Huruma and Area 3 from 9am to 12pm at the Undugu Vacational Training Center Polytechnic on Juja road for an awareness forum.

MLAHRA organizes monthly public forums geared towards promoting active citizenship with Gibson Maina, an activist and community organizer working in Mathare slum mobilizing around 40 youth leaders from all over Mathare slum who invited Kituo for the June edition. Kituo’s Advocacy, Governance and Community Partnerships coordinator Aimee Ongeso, Maureen Thuo and Ashioya Biko(Kituo Advocates) conducted the day-long training at the forum.mlahra22

Kituo used the forum to educate the participants about the history of Kituo and the work the organization does as well as update them on the status of the Legal Aid Act including aaccreditation of legal aid providers legal advice and assistance by paralegals and persons who may apply for legal aid. The participants also taken through Kituo’s M-Haki– a mobile legal aid platform through which the public can send in legal questions and get a response within 48 hours.The forum present an opportunity to share Kituo’s work with the youth including how we engage with communities together with a Q&A session for legal questions from the participants.

RCKM

Kituo Cha Sheria