There is no doubt that everyone is entitled to the full enjoyment of human rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya and other national, regional and international human rights instruments. However, the violation of human rights by both state and non-state actors is a global reality. That said, the fundamental human rights and freedoms contained in Chapter 4 of our Constitution are not mere aspirations. They have meaning and compliance with the constitutional provisions is mandatory. This means that where there has been non-compliance leading to a violation, a remedy must be availed.
In its quest to ensure that human rights are respected and protected and violations are remedied, WERO receives and processes complaints, and conducts investigations into cases of alleged human rights abuses. Given that the Commission’s mandate is very specific, the only complaints that WERO admits and conducts investigations into are those that disclose a violation of any of the rights guaranteed under Chapter four of the Constitution. The only exceptions are the rights protected under Article 27 and Article 47 of the Constitution which fall within the mandates of the National Gender and Equality Commission and the Commission on Administrative Justice respectively.
Strategies WERO uses to address complaints of human rights violations vary depending on the nature of the violations committed. Offering legal advice, using alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and litigation are the three key strategies that WERO uses.
A peek into some cases we have handled:
1. Migori High Court Petition No. 2 of 2017: Daniel Baru Nyamohanga and Another versus the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and Another
This case was filed by WERO on behalf of Mr. Daniel Baru Nyamohanga who was arrested on the 12th of January 2017 by police and was unlawfully detained for 5 days at Kehancha Police Station in Migori County. During that period, Mr. Baru was not presented before a court of law as is required under Article 49 of the Constitution. The police subsequently forcibly disappeared Mr. Baru. Once WERO received the report of Mr. Baru’s enforced disappearance, it initiated investigations and subsequently filed a petition for habeas corpus at the High Court in Migori. The Petition primarily sought to have the police compelled to produce Mr. Baru. On the 31st of May, 2018, in a landmark judgment, the presiding judge ordered the Officer Commanding Kehancha Police Station to produce Mr. Baru or his body before a court of law. The judgment strongly affirmed the rights protected in the Constitution, particularly the rights of an arrested person (Article 49), the right to a fair hearing (Article 50) and the right to an order of habeas corpus (Article 25).
2. Criminal Case No. 456 of 2016: Republic versus Dalmas Ochieng’
This is a case in which police officers from Kisumu Police Station falsely accused Mr. Dalmas Ochieng of committing the offence of incitement to violence. The accusation came after Mr. Ochieng reported the police to WERO, alleging that he had been assaulted by the police officers. The police took offence when WERO’s officers instructed them to record Mr. Ochieng’s complaint and initiate investigations. They retaliated by maliciously charging Mr. Ochieng’ with incitement to violence. WERO watched brief in the case and also testified in Mr. Ochieng’s favour. On the 6th of April, 2018, Mr. Ochieng was acquitted, with the court noting that the police had falsely accused him.