Young protester at a Justice for Liz rally in Kenya. Photo courtesy of COVAW.

Kenya: Ensure justice for 16-year-old Liz & all victims of sexual violence

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Date: 
23 Jan 2014
Update: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

5 DECEMBER 2014 UPDATE: Continued progress! A third suspect was arrested and charged just prior to the latest trial hearing in Liz’s case, which resumed 27 – 28 November (the remaining three suspects will be charged in a new case when they are apprehended). The father of one of the suspects was also charged for helping his son to evade capture. Eight witnesses testified, including the medical expert and Liz, who turned 17 in October. For the purposes of the trial, Liz was deemed a “vulnerable witness” which is a sign of progress towards proper implementation of Kenya’s Sexual Offenses Act – one of our campaign calls. This allowed for victim-sensitive measures, including testifying with an intermediary present, to help protect her dignity and lessen further trauma. The two special prosecutors nominated by civil society continue to be present and participate in the trial as members of the prosecutorial team. The next court session was scheduled for 5-6 February 2015.

On 3 December, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations also resumed their investigation of the additional 70 sexual violence cases from Busia County and Western Kenya compiled by our partners REEP Kenya and IPAS Africa Alliance. This was evidently prompted by a recent Equality Now letter asking for concrete action and a progress update. We have also reached out to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority for an update on the investigation into the conduct of the police officers that mishandled the initial reports made by Liz and her family.


10 OCTOBER 2014 UPDATE: Though Liz’s case has been adjourned until November 2014, progress continues in the case as well as to address sexual violence in Busia County/Western Kenya. In late September the DPP announced that a second perpetrator had been apprehended and placed in juvenile prison. Additionally, in late August specially trained investigators were sent to Busia to begin looking into the 70 additional rape cases compiled by our partners, with several arrests soon following. At the same time, the National Gender and Equity Commission began its own investigation in Busia to better understand the gaps and persistent problems. The Commission held closed hearings with 100s of survivors of sexual violence - many referred by REEP – and also met with magistrates, chiefs, religious officers, government officials and the children’s office to discuss the issue. Equality Now and our partners are greatly encouraged by these positive developments. Please continue to support the #JusticeforLiz campaign!


31 JULY 2014 UPDATE: The trial to obtain justice for Liz began on 24 June with court proceedings subsequently adjourned until 11-12 September. With the beginning of the trial, we are encouraged by the increased responsiveness of government officials to address sexual violence in Busia/Western Kenya arising from the campaign. In June, Equality Now wrote to the Kenyan Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – detailing 70 additional rape cases compiled by our partners, which had not been investigated and/or the identified suspects had not been arrested – to spur them to take action. Less than a month later, the DPP responded to say that he had contacted the Director of Criminal Investigations calling for “speedy and thorough investigations” into the cases; asked for the files to be submitted to his office for appropriate action following the investigations; and, that he had appointed a team from the DPP’s Sexual and Gender Based Violence unit to provide guidance during the investigations.

We are extremely hopeful that this response from senior leadership signals that sexual violence will be taken seriously and handled appropriately in Kenya. Equality Now, COVAW, Avaaz, REEP and the SOAWR coalition thank you for partnering with us on this campaign, and we will continue to update you as the situation progresses.


20 JUNE 2014 UPDATE: Renewed call to Action! The trial for Liz’s case is scheduled to begin on Tuesday 24 June and, though it’s been nearly a year, still only one of the five gang rape suspects has been arrested, despite community reports that the whereabouts of the remaining five are known.

Please help us continue to demand justice for victims of sexual violence in Kenya and raise awareness on the systemic failures to address the problem in Busia County - the site of Liz’s attack and a region with a high prevalence of sexual violence against women and girls.

On Monday 23 June, Equality Now, COVAW, Avaaz, REEP and the SOAWR coalition are holding a rally and community dialogue in Busia, to amplify our call for justice and for authorities to take sexual violence more seriously in Kenya, especially in Busia.

The renewed call and details about the rally are available here – please join us in spreading the word that we’ve had ENOUGH when it comes to sexual violence!


17 APRIL 2014 UPDATE: Progress! We’re pleased to report that following the 8 April hearing, the Director of Public Prosecutions has finally amended and upgraded the charges against all six suspects to gang rape, and issued arrest warrants for the remaining five suspects. The case is set to go to trial on 24 June.

Thank you for keeping up the pressure on Kenyan officials to get justice for Liz and we'll continue to update you as the case progresses. We hope that you will continue to join with Equality Now and our partners in calling on Kenyan officials to ensure that all sexual violence complaints are handled swiftly and appropriately, and that officials are properly equipped to deal with survivors and victims of sexual violence.


28 March 2014 Update: Thank you to the thousands of supporters who have taken action to demand Justice for Liz. Authorities took notice, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions initially issued public assurances that the case would proceed to court without further delay. However, following a hearing on 24 March 2014, it's clear that the authorities still aren't taking Liz’s case seriously. To date, only one of the  six suspects have been arrested, despite reports that their whereabouts are known, and the charge sheet still has not been amended to reflect rape or other crimes of sexual violence under the Sexual Offenses Act. Further, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority has not yet released their investigative report on the allegations of egregious professional misconduct by police officers handling this case, and no lawful action has been taken to address the police failures in this case.

The next hearing is scheduled for 8 April 2014 and we need your help! Please maintain pressure to obtain justice for Liz. Authorities must take immediate action to protect Kenya’s women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure timely access to justice for all survivors and victims.


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While walking home from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia County in late June 2013, 16-year-old Liz was brutally gang raped by six men. Following the rape the perpetrators dumped Liz, unconscious and battered, down a pit latrine. Liz was ultimately rescued by nearby villagers and the attack was reported at the Tingolo Administration Police Camp the next day. Three of the suspects were apprehended, but the police officer on duty astonishingly recorded the attack as a mere “assault.” After completing their “punishment” of cutting the grass outside the police station, they were released from custody. Tragically, as a result of the attack Liz was confined to a wheelchair and developed obstetric fistula, rendering her incontinent. Liz is now recovering after surgery and is receiving counseling, but due to threats against her and her family for speaking out, they have been forced to uproot their lives and move into witness protection facilities while Liz’s case proceeds.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

A global campaign known as #JusticeForLiz, spearheaded in October 2013 by Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and Avaaz, acquired more than 1.7 million signatures from around the globe demanding that the Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, arrest and prosecute the suspects. Authorities felt the pressure and initially issued public assurances that Liz’s case would proceed to court without further delay. However many months later, little progress has been made in attaining justice for Liz. To date, only one of the six suspects has been arrested, despite reports that their whereabouts are known. The one suspect in custody has had his criminal charge mitigated from rape to “causing grievous bodily harm” and the charge sheet still has not been amended to reflect crimes of sexual violence under the Sexual Offenses Act. Due to the apparent missteps in this specific case and the continued failure of Kenyan authorities to properly address sexual violence cases, Equality Now, together with our partners through the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) Coalition—COVAW, FIDA-Kenya, FEMNET, Fahamu and IPAS—in calling for justice for Liz and for all survivors and victims of sexual violence. Much more must be done to protect Kenya’s women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure timely access to justice for all survivors.

Liz’s case highlights a common response by the Kenyan authorities to crimes of sexual violence:

  • Not taking crimes of sexual violence seriously: only the Attorney General has the authority to discontinue an investigation into a sexual violence complaint per the 2006 Sexual Offences Act. Yet in this case, police officers erroneously “arbitrated” what should have been a criminal prosecution – a fact later admitted by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kimaiyo – and released the suspects based on their assertion that “the condition of the girl was not serious.”
  • Victim challenging and blaming with no regard for evidence or context: in a 2 November 2013 press statement, Mr. Kimaiyo also made troubling statements about the facts of Liz’s case. He questioned the legitimacy of Liz’s story, stating that the short time span between Liz’s screams and the response time for villagers was “too short for six assailants to have gang raped her.” He also attacked Liz’s credibility by questioning the timeframe it took for Liz to tell her family and medical professionals that she had been raped, ignoring the traumatic impact sexual violence can have on survivors.
  • Slow processes, delaying and/or denying justice: in early November 2013, Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga referred the case to Kenya's top-level judicial oversight body, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who officially stated that it had received her file and was taking appropriate action to safeguard the investigation and subsequent prosecution. A February report by the National Gender and Equality Commission noted that the “matter is a clear case of alleged gang rape” and that it is “still unclear why prosecutions have not been effected even after the Chief Justice ordered the same to be effected and requests for follow up on the matter.”

Liz’s case occurred on the heels of a landmark judgment for victims of sexual violence passed by the Kenyan High Court in May 2013 in a class action suit, known as the 160 Girls Case, on behalf of girls whose cases of sexual violence had been mishandled by the police. The Court held that “the neglect, omission, refusal and/or failure of the police to conduct prompt, effective, proper and professional investigations” into the many complaints of sexual violence violated the girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, and ordered the Commissioner and Inspector General of Police to conduct “prompt, effective, proper and professional investigations.” However, this case indicates Kenya’s continuing failure to adequately investigate and prosecute all sexual violence crimes.

A 2013 report by the Kenyan Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, detailed a grave picture of sexual violence in the country: 1 in 5 Kenyan women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. An estimated 45% of Kenyan women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical or sexual violence – and these numbers are likely to be much higher, as COVAW estimates that only 8% of rape survivors report the attack to authorities. Survivors of sexual violence in Kenya often face re-victimization when reporting their cases, as authorities often engage in harmful behaviors that diminish the survivor’s sense of confidence in the judicial process, including: showing disbelief or skepticism towards complainants, employing aggressive interviewing techniques that are embarrassing and invasive, victim-blaming, and questioning the victim’s motives for reporting the crime. A 2009 case study of gender desks at Nairobi police stations illustrated that 52% of people who reported gender violence considered the police “not helpful” and 39% said police were “reluctant to record statements.” Another 20% were asked for bribes to pursue their case, and 28% felt “humiliated and handled without courtesy and dignity.”

Kenya’s Constitution gives significant prominence to human rights and international law, and entrenches the rights and fundamental freedoms of all, including the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. Kenya has ratified a number of international and regional human rights instruments that affirm the State’s responsibility to protect women and girls from sexual violence, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Protocol obliges member states to “adopt and implement appropriate measures to ensure the protection of every woman’s right to respect for her dignity and protection of women from all forms of violence, particularly sexual and verbal violence” and to “ensure the prevention, punishment and eradication of all forms of violence against women.” Furthermore, the Protocol requires that Kenya establish “mechanisms and accessible services for effective information, rehabilitation and reparation for victims” and direct adequate State resources towards the implementation and monitoring of preventative action.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

  • Call on the officials below to take immediate steps to arrest all the remaining suspects so the trial can proceed with them present.
  • Urge Kenya’s criminal justice sector work together more effectively to ensure that the Sexual Offences Act is effectively implemented so that all cases of sexual violence are properly investigated and prosecuted, particularly in the Butula and Nambale sub-counties of Busia County.
  • Urge the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to investigate and report on the allegations of egregious professional misconduct by the police officers handling this case, and to take action against the police failures in this case.
  • Urge the government of Kenya to prioritize the training of law enforcement officials to ensure that sexual violence complaints are appropriately handled and that officials are equipped to deal with survivors of sexual violence by rectifying harmful behaviors that might further distress victims or impede their access to justice.
  • Take part in the #JusticeForLiz social media campaign. Messages can also be re-tweeted from @equalitynow, @COVAW and @FemnetProg.
  • Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.

Letters should be addressed to:

H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta
President of the Republic of Kenya
P.O. Box 30040
Nairobi, Kenya
@StateHouseKenya, @UKenyatta
info@president.go.ke

Hon. Prof Githu Muigai
Attorney General
Department of Justice
Harambee Avenue
P.O Box 40112-00100
Nairobi, Kenya
oagpcomms@kenya.go.ke
@AGMuigai

Hon. Mr. Keriako Tobiko
Director of Public Prosecution
Office of the DPP
NSSF Building, 19th Fl
Bishops Road
P.O. Box 30701-00100
Nairobi, Kenya
info@odpp.go.ke

H.E. Ms. Anne Waiguru
Cabinet Secretary
Ministry of Devolution & Planning
P. O. Box 30005 - 00100
Nairobi, Kenya
info@devolutionplanning.go.ke
@AnneWaiguru

Hon Dr. Willy Mutunga
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Kenya
City Hall Way
P.O. Box 30041-00100
Nairobi, Kenya
chiefjustice@judiciary.go.ke
@WMutunga

Hon. Sospeter Odeke Ojaamong
Governor, Busia County
County Government of Busia
Fomer Busia Town Hall Building
P.O Box Private Bag Busia
50400 Busia, Kenya
info@busiacounty.go.ke

Ms. Patricia Nyaundi
Secretary to the Commission
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
1st Floor CVS Plaza, Kasuku Rd.
P.O. Box: 74359-00200
Nairobi, Kenya
haki@knchr.org

Independent Policing
Oversight Authority
1st Ngong Avenue,
ACK Garden Annex, 2nd Fl.
P. O. Box 23035 00100
Nairobi, Kenya
info@ipoa.go.ke

With a copy to: The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, Email: info@kewopa.org

Letters: 

Dear President/Minister/Governor,

I am deeply concerned about the mounting evidence demonstrating Kenyan authorities’ systemic failure to investigate and prosecute sexual violence cases. I am particularly disturbed by the brutal rape of Liz in Busia County that occurred on June 26, 2013, and the subsequent miscarriage of justice by authorities in Liz’s case. To date five of the six suspects identified have not been arrested despite reports that their whereabouts are known. Much more must be done to protect Kenya’s women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure timely access to justice for all survivors.

Liz’s case drew national and international attention to Busia County and the failures of the local authorities to adequately address sexual violence. The evidence in Busia in is very compelling, and highlights the prevalence of sexual violence plaguing women and girls, and the tremendous obstacles encountered at every stage of the criminal justice process. There are dozens if not hundreds of cases that underscore just how dire the situation has become.

Kenya’s 2006 Sexual Offences Act criminalizes all forms of sexual violence and the 2010 Constitution entrenches the rights and fundamental freedoms of all, while also giving significant prominence to human rights and international law (specifically see Articles 27, 28, 29, and 48). Kenya has also ratified and domesticated a number of human rights instruments that affirm the State’s responsibility to protect women and girls from sexual violence, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I join Equality Now and their partners through the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) Coalition - COVAW, FIDA-Kenya, FEMNET, Fahamu and IPAS - in calling for justice for Liz and for all survivors and victims of sexual violence. I urge Kenyan authorities to take urgent action in accordance with Kenya’s international, regional and domestic obligations to ensure that:

  • Immediate steps are taken to ensure timely justice for Liz, which includes arresting the five remaining suspects who are still at large so that the case can proceed with them present at the trial now scheduled for 24 June, 2014.
  • Kenya’s criminal justice sector work together more effectively to ensure that the Sexual Offences Act is effectively implemented and that all cases of sexual violence are properly investigated and prosecuted, particularly in Busia County.
  • That the Independent Policing Oversight Authority investigate and report on the allegations of egregious professional misconduct by police officers handling this case, and take necessary lawful action against police failures in this case.  
  • That the training of law enforcement officials is prioritized to ensure that sexual violence complaints are appropriately handled and that they are equipped to deal with survivors and victims of sexual violence by rectifying harmful behaviours that might further distress victim or impede their access to justice.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,