Judge Pauline Nyamweya

Challenging culture of impunity in Kenya

Three former university professors have brought a claim in Kenya’s high court asking for restitution for human rights infringements. They seem to be part of a trend to end the culture of impunity in Kenya. The three had been detained and tortured under a previous government, and now, more than 30 years later, wanted recognition of what had happened, plus compensation for how their lives had been ruined by the unlawful action against them.

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The solemn opening remarks by Judges John Mativo and Pauline Nyamweya signaled the gravity of the decision they were about to give and the horrors the case would disclose: torture, unlawful abduction, years in illicit detention, lives wrecked, bodies broken.

Law is the “bloodline of every nation”, the judges said. “The end of law is justice. It gives justice meaning.” It was a shield or refuge from misery, oppression and injustice.

No gvmt budget to pay damages’ award is no excuse – high court

What is a litigant supposed to do when the government simply ignores court orders to pay damages? The problem can be starkly seen in this case of a Kenyan man who nearly lost his life when he was attacked and severely beaten by soldiers almost 30 years ago. Decades later, George Waithaka is still struggling to get the compensation due to him on the orders of the court. Faced by authorities who do nothing to ensure his payment, Waithaka has now won a contempt of court order against the official who should have signed the cheque.

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During 1991, taxi operator George Waithaka was brutally beaten by Kenyan soldiers. He lost consciousness for four days and needed metal implants in his legs. After some initial difficulties, he finally won judgment in September 2014, stipulating that he be paid damages. Months later an official order against the government was issued by the court for payment of damages amounting to KShs 3,858,528 This represented damages plus interest up to that date.

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