Many decades after they were detained and tortured, two prominent Kenyan activists who campaigned for multi-party democracy and human rights have been awarded posthumous compensation related to their detention and torture under previous repressive governments. The court that awarded compensation to them also made formal declarations that the fundamental freedoms of the two, Charles Rubia and John Serony, had been violated, as had their right not to be subject to torture and other unlawful abuse. Though it had been many years since the two were detained and tortured, the presiding judge said it was ‘not too late to peer into the past and correct injustices that may have occurred in our history.’
Kenya’s High Court has declared as unconstitutional the ‘unreasonable use of force’ by police since a dusk to dawn curfew came into effect in that country on 26 March. The court has also ordered that the authorities must include lawyers and members of the police oversight authorities on the list of those exempt from the provisions of the curfew, established as a response to the coronavirus. The curfew was implemented because the government was reluctant to impose a lockdown as has been the case in a number of other countries.
Kenya’s law society has launched a court application challenging the validity of the country’s Covid-19 restrictions because they have not been approved by parliament. The law society also claims they are invalid because they discriminate against the poor, in that they make wearing masks compulsory while those living in poverty will not be able to afford them. Further, the society argues that the regulations go further than the laws from which they derive their power, will allow. While this application makes its way to a court hearing, an earlier application by the society, also related to contentious Covid-19 restrictions, has been finalised by the high court.
The failure of Uganda’s Government to pass laws protecting people evicted from private and public land has come under the sharp eye of the high court. Following an application brought by a local human rights lawyer, the court has declared that failure to pass laws setting out proper procedures in the case of evictions violated the rights to life, dignity and property of those affected. Judge Musa Ssekaana ordered the government to report back within seven months on its progress towards such legislative guidelines. The court also said these guidelines should be developed via public consultation and participation and with reference to the relevant United Nations-recommended best practice. Drawing from decisions of the courts in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and SA, among others, as well as international law and other UN documents, the judge said it was the state’s duty not only to protect property but also to ensure that the social and economic rights of the people were given meaning.
We start the new year with a sensational turn to the high-profile dispute between government and controversial political figure Miguna Miguna: the Nairobi court in Kenya has ordered that six top government and police officials must together personally pay his legal costs in a case testing the validity of his arrest, torture, and deportation. Not just that, the six officials must also jointly pay the Kshs7m Miguna was awarded in damages by the court for the violation of his rights. Miguna was arrested a year ago under dramatic circumstances and twice deported to Canada within a few weeks, despite judicial orders that he be produced before the high court. Those court orders are still being ignored by government officials and Miguna was unable to attend argument in his case as he is still in Canada and prohibited from entering Kenya. Among other shocking allegations the court heard that state agents blew off the doors to Miguna’s house when they first arrested him, and that he was held for days in a toilet cubicle at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport before he was injected with a tranquilizer to subdue him so that he could be deported for a second time.