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NAIROBI, June 16, 2014 – A new study from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) shows that the Kenyan government has not effectively addressed the harms suffered by victims of sexual crimes committed during the violence that followed Kenya's disputed 2007 elections or ensured the accountability of perpetrators.
During the crisis, thousands of women, children and men were sexually assaulted, including, in some cases, by police officers and military personnel. In Kenya’s largest city, the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital treated 443 survivors of sexual violence, of which 80% were cases of rape or defilement.
The study from ICTJ, “The Accountability Gap on Sexual Violence in Kenya: Reforms and Initiatives Since the Post-election Crisis,” analyzes the extent to which responses by the state to the violence, like criminal prosecutions, police reform, and the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, have provided any measure of justice for these victims.
“The two main commissions found that the government failed to give due consideration to sexual violence both before and during the crisis,” said Christopher Gitari, Head of ICTJ’s Kenya office. “Specific recommendations for remedies, which came directly from the commissions’ investigations, have not translated into any real benefit for survivors or their families.”
In a disturbing trend, only a small fraction of victims of sexual violence reported the crime to the police or another agency. While rape and other sexual crimes are underreported in most societies, the reasons for low reporting in Kenya stem in part from the public’s lack of confidence that the police are willing and able to investigate sexual crimes.
In interviews with ICTJ, many victims of rape doubted whether the police would act on their reports – or worse, some feared retaliation from police officers who might side with perpetrators because of their ethnicity.
The study’s findings are affirmed by a case now before the High Court in Nairobi (Petition Number 122 of 2013), in which eight victims of sexual and gender-based violence committed during the crisis charge that the government failed to protect civilians and did not properly investigate reports of sexual crimes.
“It’s very troubling that, six years on, not one person has been convicted of a sexual violence crime and the government has yet to redress the harms suffered by these victims,” said Amrita Kapur, Senior Associate for ICTJ’s Gender Justice program. “The government must continue to find credible and effective ways to create accountability and ensure that women and men are never targeted in this way again.”
The study makes recommendations to the government that would help to guarantee victims’ rights to a remedy, like ensuring that police vetting includes a focus on gender sensitivity and that police training identifies sexual violence as a violation of a person’s right to bodily integrity, rather than an offence against honor.
The study concludes that new measures like the 2010 Constitution, the National Police Service Act 2011, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, and the National Police Commission, if fully implemented, may help achieve justice for victims.
Nairobi: Christopher Gitari, Head of Office – Kenya
Phone: + 254 722-630-338
New York: Amrita Kapur, Senior Associate, Gender Justice program
Photo: A woman in Nairobi's Mathare slum- via Flickr