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

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.

Young protester at a Justice for Liz rally in Kenya. Photo courtesy of COVAW.
While returning home from a funeral in Busia County, Kenya in late June 2013, 16-year-old Liz was brutally gang raped and thrown, unconscious and battered, down a pit latrine. Three of the suspects were caught, but, astonishingly, the police recorded the attack as a mere “assault” and released the assailants after having them cut the police station grass as “punishment.” 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 has been unable to return to school due to her continued hospitalization.

Seven months after a global campaign, spearheaded in October 2013 by the Kenyan women’s NGOs, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) and African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), acquired more than 1.7 million signatures demanding #JusticeForLiz, little progress has been made. While the authorities took notice at first, their attention seems to have waned. In a press release earlier this year the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions issued assurances that Liz’s case would proceed to court without further delay. However, five of the six suspects identified still have not been arrested despite reports that their whereabouts are known. 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.

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. Tragically Liz’s experience is commonplace in Kenya, where 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Therefore, please join Equality Now, and 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.

Please Take Action today by:

  • Calling on the officials below to take 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.
  • Calling on the officials below to ensure that the Sexual Offences Act is effectively implemented to ensure that all cases of sexual violence are properly investigated and prosecuted.
  • Urging the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to 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.
  • Urging the government of Kenya to prioritize 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.
  • Taking part in the #JusticeForLiz social media campaign. Messages can also be re-tweeted from @equalitynow, @COVAW and @FemnetProg.

H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta

President of the Republic of Kenya

Hon. Prof Githu Muigai., M.P.

Attorney General

Hon. Joseph Ole Lenku

Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government

Hon. Mr. Keriako Tobiko

Director of Public Prosecution

H.E. Ms Anne Waiguru

Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution & Planning

Hon Dr. Willy Mutunga

Chief Justice

Hon. Sospeter Odeke Ojaamong

Governor, Busia County

Ms. Patricia Nyaundi

Secretary to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association

Independent Policing Oversight Authority