An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Kenya

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

In 2017 President Kenyatta approved the Prevention of Torture Act, which provides a basis to prosecute torture. The law provides a platform to apply articles of the 2010 constitution, including: Article 25 on freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; Article 28 on respect and protection of human dignity; and Article 29 on freedom and security of the person. The law brings all state agencies and officials under one, rather than multiple pieces of legislation. Additionally, the law provides protections to vulnerable witnesses and law enforcement officials who refuse to obey illegal orders that would lead to torture. The government, however, had not implemented the guidelines required to operationalize the Prevention of Torture Act.

Pretrial detainees accused police of use of torture. In September a shooting suspect filed a formal complaint with IPOA alleging torture by police and continued detention beyond the maximum legal duration. That investigation continued as of year’s end.

Police reportedly used torture and violence during interrogations as well as to punish both pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. According to human rights NGOs, physical battery, bondage in painful positions, and electric shock were the most common methods of torture used by police. A range of human rights organizations and media reported police committed torture and indiscriminate violence with impunity. For example, there were numerous press and NGO reports of police brutality against protestors and unarmed citizens, including in house-to-house operations in the days following the August 2017 elections (see section 3).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights organizations reported that prison, detention center, and police station conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. A Directorate of Health Services in the Prisons Department oversees health and hygiene issues.

Physical Conditions: According to the Kenya Prisons Service (PS), the prison population as of September was 51,130, held in prisons with a designated capacity of 26,837. More than 90 percent of prisoners were men. According to the National Council on the Administration of Justice’s (NCAJ) January report, the country has 105 prisons–87 for men and 18 for women. While the PS noted that seven prisons have been constructed since 2012, serious overcrowding was the norm, with an average prisoner population of nearly 200 percent capacity and some prisons housing up to 400 percent of capacity. Authorities continued a “decongestion” program that entailed releasing petty offenders and encouraging the judiciary to increase use of the Community Service Orders program in its sentencing.

The PS reported 131 deaths as of September, many attributable to sicknesses caused or exacerbated by overcrowding, lack of access to clean water, poor hygiene, and inadequate medical care. According to a study by the NCAJ released in 2017, sanitary facilities were inadequate, and tuberculosis remained a serious problem at eight prisons.

In January 2017 the NCAJ reported that despite the legal requirement to separate male prisoners from women and children, the mixing of genders and ages remained a problem in some prisons. Between January and June 2017, IPOA observed that authorities separated women from men in detention facilities on average 89 percent of the time in the 29 detention facilities its representatives visited. In smaller jails, female prisoners were not always separated from men. There were no separate facilities during pretrial detention, and sexual abuse of female prisoners was a problem. Human rights groups reported that police routinely engaged in non-consensual sex with female prisoners and that many female inmates resorted to prostitution to obtain necessities, such as sanitary items and underwear, which the Prisons Service did not provide.

Authorities generally separated minors from adults except during the initial detention period at police stations, when authorities often held adults and minors of both sexes in a single cell. Minors often mixed with the general prison population during lunch and exercise periods, according to the Coalition for Constitutional Interpretation, a domestic NGO. Prison officials reported that because there were few detention facilities for minors, authorities often had to transport them long distances to serve their sentences, spending nights at police stations under varying conditions along the way. In October 2017 the Daily Nation newspaper reported a witness had accused a police officer of raping a 13-year-old victim while she was held overnight at a police station for alleged theft. IPOA investigated the incident. A criminal prosecution was proceeding in the courts.

The law allows children to stay with their inmate mothers in certain circumstances until age four or until arrangements for their care outside the facilities are concluded, whichever is earlier.

Prisoners generally received three meals a day, but portions were inadequate. The PS stated in August that it no longer served a penal diet for punishment. Water shortages, a problem both inside and outside of prison, continued. Prisoners generally spent most of their time indoors in inadequately lit and poorly ventilated cellblocks. This was especially true for the more than one-third of inmates awaiting trial, as they were not engaged in any work programs that would allow them to leave their cells regularly.

Administration: Mechanisms for prisoners to report abuse and other concerns improved due to collaboration between the PS and the KNCHR to monitor human rights standards in prison and detention facilities. By law, the Commission on the Administration of Justice serves as ombudsman on government administration of prisons. It is to receive and treat as confidential correspondence from inmates and recommend remedies to address their concerns, including those pertaining to prison living conditions and administration. Government-established special committees, which included paralegals and prison officials, also served to increase prisoners’ access to the judicial system. The Legal Aid Center of Eldoret noted there was no single system providing “primary justice” to prisoners and detainees, who instead relied on a patchwork of services largely provided by NGOs. Many government-designated human rights officers lacked necessary training, and some prisons did not have a human rights officer.

Noncustodial community service programs and the release of some petty offenders alleviated somewhat prison overcrowding. The total prison population did not decrease substantially, however, because of unaffordable bail and bond terms for pretrial detainees, high national crime rates, overuse of custodial sentencing, and a high number of death row and life-imprisoned inmates. Legal rights NGOs and prison officials reported overuse of the charge of “robbery with violence,” which may carry a life sentence, without sufficient evidence to support it. Some petty offenders consequently received disproportionately heavy sentences.

Prison officials sometimes denied prisoners and detainees the right to contact relatives or lawyers. Family members who wanted to visit prisoners commonly reported bureaucratic obstacles that generally required a bribe to resolve. According to the Legal Resources Foundation, prisoners had reasonable access to legal counsel and other official visitors, although there was insufficient space in many prisons and jails to meet with visitors in private and conduct confidential conversations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although the government did not always respect judicial impartiality. The government sometimes undermined the independence of the judiciary. In April the minister of interior claimed the judiciary was “captured” by civil society with the intent to stall and embarrass the government.

Reform of the judiciary continued. In August the director of public prosecution directed anticorruption authorities to investigate the judiciary over allegations of misuse and loss of court funds. On August 28, authorities arrested the deputy chief justice for suspected corruption. She faces charges for abuse of office for personal gain, and undermining public integrity in the judiciary. The case against the deputy chief justice was ongoing as of year’s end. Authorities generally respected court orders, and the outcomes of trials did not appear to be predetermined.

In June parliament accused the judiciary of meddling in the legislative process, citing court orders against parliamentary procedures.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC)–a constitutionally mandated oversight body intended to insulate the judiciary from political pressure–provides the president with a list of nominees for judicial appointment. The president selects one of the nominees for parliamentary approval. The president appoints the chief justice and appellate and High Court judges through this process. The commission publicly reviews judicial appointees. As of October President Kenyatta had not formally installed JSC nominee Judge Mohammed Warsame, whom the JCS nominated in April.

In December 2017 the judiciary issued the State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Report for 2016-17, which cited more than 60,000 cases pending in court for between five and 10 years. The judiciary improved its case clearance rate during the year and substantially reduced case backlog by increasing benches of judges sitting daily.

The constitution gives the judiciary authority to review appointments and decisions made by other branches of government. Parliament generally adhered to judicial decisions, with some exceptions.

For example, in August 2016 a High Court deadline expired for parliament to enact legislation to implement the constitutionally mandated two-thirds gender principle (see section 3). In 2017 a second High Court-ordered deadline for implementation expired, despite a promise by the National Assembly majority leader to bring it to a vote. The order remained under parliamentary review at year’s end. In May the High Court issued a ruling quashing the privileges of parliament that had insulated against legal redress on any decisions parliamentarians make. In June parliament slashed the judiciary budget allocation for the 2018-19 financial year in a perceived retaliatory move.

The law provides for “kadhi” courts, which adjudicate Muslim law on marriage, divorce, and inheritance among Muslims. There were no other traditional courts. The national courts used the traditional law of an ethnic group as a guide in personal matters as long as it did not conflict with statutory law.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, although individuals may give some testimony in closed session; the independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to attend their trials, confront witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence in their defense. The law also provides defendants the right to receive prompt and detailed information on the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary, including during trials; to be tried without undue delay; to have access to government-held evidence; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities generally respected these rights, although they did not always promptly inform persons of the charges against them. During the year the judiciary completed disseminating Active Case Management Guidelines to several courts involved in a management pilot project. The judiciary implemented the pilot project in some high profile and complex cases, but had not done so on a regular basis. In January Chief Justice David Maraga launched the National Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms to coordinate justice sector reform. On September 22, Maraga inaugurated the Criminal Procedure Bench Book as part of ongoing judicial reforms.

Trial delays sometimes resulted because witnesses failed to present themselves, judges cancelled trial dates without notice, witnesses were not protected, or legal counsel failed to appear. Authorities generally respected a defendant’s right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants generally had adequate time to prepare a defense if they were capable of doing so. The government and courts generally respected these rights. There was no government-sponsored public defenders service, and courts continued to try the vast majority of defendants without representation because they could not afford legal counsel.

In May, 2,000 inmates at a regional prison declined to appear in court over processing and conclusion of their court cases. The inmates accused the justice system of detaining them without trial. The judiciary resolved the matter after three weeks by rotating additional judges to the court.

The Legal Aid Act enacted in 2016 established the National Legal Aid Service to facilitate access to justice, with the ultimate goal of providing pro-bono services for indigent defendants who cannot afford legal representation. Other pro-bono legal aid was available only in major cities where some human rights organizations, notably the Federation of Women Lawyers, an international NGO, provided it. The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) held the annual legal awareness week in September with the theme “Corruption: a crime against justice, democracy, development and prosperity.” During the week, LSK provided free legal aid at all High Courts nation-wide.

The ODPP significantly increased the number of trained prosecutors during the year. According to the ODPP, as of June 29, there were an estimated 627 state prosecutors, compared with 200 in 2013, as well as 402 support staff. The expansion of the prosecution service reduced delays in court proceedings. The ODPP suffered high staff turnover, largely due to the judiciary offering better pay. To fill the gap, the office increased recruiting efforts and brought in more than 90 new prosecutors during the year.

Discovery laws are not clearly defined, handicapping defense lawyers. Implementation of a High Court ruling requiring provision of written statements to the defense before trial remained inconsistent. Defense lawyers often did not have access to government-held evidence before a trial. There were reports the government sometimes invoked the Official Secrets Act as a basis for withholding evidence.

Defendants may appeal a verdict to a High Court and ultimately to the Court of Appeal and, for some matters, to the Supreme Court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

While generally not an issue, there was one report of a political prisoner or detainee. Authorities detained opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna for several days following the January 30 ceremony swearing in Raila Odinga as “the people’s president.” Authorities failed to comply with a court order to produce Miguna and instead deported him, claiming that he had given up his Kenyan citizenship upon obtaining Canadian citizenship (see section 1.d).

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may use the civil court system to seek damages for violations of human rights and may appeal decisions to the Supreme Court as well as to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. In 2016 the judiciary launched a program of Enhanced Service Delivery Initiatives to promote more efficient and affordable justice. The program introduced Performance Management Understandings as a method for measuring the performance of judicial staff, judges, and magistrates by work delivery. In 2017 Supreme Court Chief Justice Maraga launched a strategic blueprint for judicial reform, which included an Implementation and Monitoring Committee. In September the ODPP set up a task force to review the national prosecution policy and other guidelines. The task force was expected to develop guidelines on alternatives to prosecution, formulate ODPP charge sheet formats and information, develop standard guidelines on preparation of case files, and develop rules on the operationalization of a central intake of cases.

According to human rights NGOs, bribes, extortion, and political considerations influenced the outcomes in some civil cases. Court fees for filing and hearing civil cases effectively barred some from access to the courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

There is no single established system of land tenure in the country: private titles compete with customary land rights and community land, while public land is vulnerable to squatters or to unscrupulous developers. There is no clear legal framework for issuing title deeds or for adjudicating land disputes because of legal disputes between the National Land Commission, vested with powers of land adjudication through the constitution and 2012 implementing legislation, and the Ministry of Lands. Plots of land were sometimes allocated twice. The Community Land Act signed into law in 2016 allows communities to apply for land registrations as a single entity and put in train the adjudication process in which their applications will be considered alongside any competing claims. In June the government launched its first National Land Use Policy, calling for the issuance of titles based on approved physical development plans.

A report by the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) established in the aftermath of the 2007-08 postelection violence identified land reform, including titling, as a key issue, and issued recommendations, which were largely not implemented. NGOs and media reported progress had been uneven. For example, according to the daily Standard newspaper, in January 2017 a branch of the High Court ruled that more than three million land title deeds issued by the government since 2013 had been irregularly processed and were therefore invalid, but could be corrected. The judgment was based on the parliament’s failure to approve regulations required to implement the Land Registration Act.

There is no established system for restitution or compensation for those declared to be squatters and ordered to vacate land. Both private and communal clashes were common because of land disputes. The government used forced eviction and demolition to restore what it claimed was illegally occupied public land. For example, in July authorities demolished buildings in the Nairobi informal settlement Kibera, including seven schools, and the residences of more than 10,000 persons. Despite promises to complete a resettlement plan and restitution manifest prior to the demolition, authorities failed to do so.

Evictions also continued in the Mau forest in southwest Kenya. In July authorities forcefully evicted approximately 2,000 persons considered squatters without legal right to live on public land. This led to increased intercommunity clashes in the area in August and September.

In May 2017 the African Union Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights found in favor of the indigenous Ogiek community evicted in 2009 from the Mau Forest. The court ruled the government’s actions had violated seven articles of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which the country is a signatory. The ruling gave the government until November 2017 to implement the required remedies, but at year’s end, the attorney general had taken no action.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government sometimes restricted this right. Police routinely denied requests for meetings filed by human rights activists, and authorities dispersed persons attending meetings that had not been prohibited beforehand. Organizers must notify local police in advance of public meetings, which may proceed unless police notify organizers otherwise. By law authorities may prohibit gatherings only if there is another previously scheduled meeting at the same time and venue or if there is a perceived specific security threat.

Police used excessive force at times to disperse demonstrators. The local press reported on multiple occasions that police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators or crowds of various types, including looters at the demolition of a shopping mall in September. On August 6, police tear-gassed Kenyatta National Hospital staff staging a peaceful protest over nonpayment of their health service allowances. IPOA’s investigation of resulting complaints continued as of year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right, but there were reports that authorities arbitrarily denied this right in some cases. A statement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights dated July 11 noted reprisals faced by numerous human rights defenders and communities that raised human rights concerns. Reprisals reportedly took the form of intimidation, termination of employment, beatings, and arrests and threats of malicious prosecution. There were reports of restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, including in the agribusiness and public sectors. Trade unionists reported workers dismissed for joining trade unions or for demanding respect for their labor rights.

The Societies Act requires that every public association be either registered or exempted from registration by the Registrar of Societies. The NGO Coordination Act requires that NGOs dedicated to advocacy, public benefit, or the promotion of charity or research register with the NGO Coordination Board. In February the High Court ordered the NGO Coordination Board to pay the Kenya Human Rights Commission KSH two million ($20,000) compensation for illegally freezing its accounts and attempting to deregister it in 2017. The NGO Coordination Board had also attempted to deregister the Africa Centre for Open Governance, but a court overturned that decision in December 2017.

The NGO Coordination Act of 1990 requires organizations employing foreign staff to seek authorization from the NGO Coordination Board before applying for a work permit.

In 2016 the Ministry of Devolution and Planning announced its intention to implement immediately the 2013 Public Benefits Organization (PBO) Act, an important step in providing a transparent legal framework for NGO activities. Despite two court rulings ordering the government to operationalize the PBO Act. In September the interior cabinet secretary pledged to operationalize the PBO Act by the end of the year but the government failed to do so.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future