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Kenya to compensate rape victims from violence 13 years ago

Opposition supporters protest in front of riot police in Nairobi's Kibera slum December 29, 2007. Machete-wielding gangs fought, looted and burned homes in Kenyan opposition strongholds on Saturday when delays in presidential poll results ignited tribal tensions in east Africa's economic power. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

A Kenyan high court on Thursday ordered the government to compensate four victims of sexual attacks by security agents during post-election violence 13 years ago.

Rights activist say the judgment sets a precedent and clears the way for hundreds, possibly thousands, of other victims to seek redress.

Eight victims of sexual violence — six women and two men — had sued the government for neglect on behalf of thousands of sex abuse victims during the post-election violence after a flawed presidential election in Dec 27, 2007. Their cases were backed by several rights groups.

Justice Weldon Korir awarded four of the eight victims $36,000 compensation Thursday after he found their rights to life and security — as well as prohibitions against torture, inhuman and degrading treatment — were violated as a result of government failure to act.

More than 1,000 people were killed and 600,000 displaced from their homes during the violence. Some 900 people reported being sexually assaulted, but human rights groups say the number runs into thousands and many could not report the attacks to police because the police themselves were perpetrators, or because they were too afraid to report the perpetrators.

Korir, however, did not find enough evidence that the government failed to address crimes against other victims of sexual and gender based violence during the post-election violence, and declined to issue orders directing them to do so.

Human rights groups involved in the case hailed it as a landmark ruling.

It sends a message that other survivors can use this avenue, said Naitore Nyamu, head of Physicians for Human Rights in Kenya, which helped the eight victims seek justice. She said it also sends a message to police that they have a responsibility to conduct genuine investigations that will lead to prosecutions

“We have had no other avenues to obtain justice since the gruesome ordeal of the 2007-2008 post-election sexual violence,” the eight victims in the case said in a statement.

“We have endured long-term physical, psychological, and social scars – which will only continue until the Government of Kenya fulfills its basic legal and human rights duties to acknowledge the harm we have suffered, ensure accountability, and give us reparation,” the statement said.

Kenya’s government claims that there actions have been taken and that it prosecuted hundreds of cases, but has refused to give evidence of the prosecutions.

Most of the survivors were raped — several gang-raped — and some were forcefully circumcised in front of their relatives, Nyamu said.

She added that they have been living with the consequences of their ordeals, such as being infected with HIV, losing their livelihoods, being abandoned by their spouses or stigmatized by their communities.

This article was published by The Washington Post.


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