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

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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