Uhuru approves Bill assuring freedom from torture

Victims of torture, cruel and inhuman treatment in the country, including the survivors of the 1984 Wagalla massacre and the post-election violence, finally have a reason to smile about after the anti-torture Bill became law as contemplated in the Bill of Rights.

State House said in a statement Thursday that President Uhuru Kenyatta had “assented to a law that gives effect to provisions of the Constitution of Kenya that guarantee freedom from torture, cruelty and punishment”.

It added: “The new law outlines the principles of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The legislation provides for reparations to victims of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, legislations to give effect to the provisions of the Bill of Rights, which, among others, guarantees “freedom from torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, were to be enacted within five years after the August 27, 2010 promulgation of the Constitution.

However, the enactment of the law has taken six years and seven months.

Rights activist and executive director of Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) George Kegoro welcomed the move but asked that it should now get to the next stage of implementation.

“It is a move on the right direction and we congratulate the President,” said Mr Kegoro.

“It has taken long but it is done. Now there should be in place mechanisms to implement it.”

The new law also empowers the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to investigate alleged violations under the Act.

In addition, the KNCHR also gets the role to advise government, liaise with public entities and work with enforcement agencies in matters relating to torture.

Meanwhile, after the chaos and confusion that characterised the forced retirement of former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi last year, it is now in black and white that judges will retire once they attain the age of 70.

This was yet another piece of legislation that President Kenyatta assented to yesterday.

The laws relating to the Judiciary also deal with retirement for the Chief Justice and DCJ and will address benefits for the immediate former CJ, Dr Willy Mutunga, and ex-DCJ Rawal.

Furthermore, in order to forestall the chaos that rocked the National Police Service following the forced removal from office of former Deputy Inspector-General of Police Grace Kaindi, President Kenyatta now has powers to appoint a suitable officer to act in case the office of the DIGP falls vacant.   

Other laws assented to are Refugees Act 2006, which places administration of refugees under the Refugees Secretariat, and Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 to streamline membership of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) board.

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