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

5 DECEMBER 2014 UPDATE: Continued progress! A third suspect was arrested and charged just prior to the latest trial hearing in Liz’s case, which resumed 27 – 28 November (the remaining three suspects will be charged in a new case when they are apprehended). The father of one of the suspects was also charged for helping his son to evade capture. Eight witnesses testified, including the medical expert and Liz, who turned 17 in October. For the purposes of the trial, Liz was deemed a “vulnerable witness” which is a sign of progress towards proper implementation of Kenya’s Sexual Offenses Act – one of our campaign calls. This allowed for victim-sensitive measures, including testifying with an intermediary present, to help protect her dignity and lessen further trauma. The two special prosecutors nominated by civil society continue to be present and participate in the trial as members of the prosecutorial team. The next court session was scheduled for 5-6 February 2015.
On 3 December, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations also resumed their investigation of the additional 70 sexual violence cases from Busia County and Western Kenya compiled by our partners REEP Kenya and IPAS Africa Alliance. This was evidently prompted by a recent Equality Now letter asking for concrete action and a progress update. We have also reached out to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority for an update on the investigation into the conduct of the police officers that mishandled the initial reports made by Liz and her family. (For additional updates click here.)

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 to arrest all the remaining suspects so the trial can proceed with them present.
  • 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. 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