Ndung'u Wainaina - Time we all stood up for IDPs' justice - The Star

My heart continues to bleed for the thousands of IDPs being tortured and exploited in camps and transition camps. Further my call for attention to hundreds of victims who are suffering from grave harm inflicted on them including some with bullets in their bodies following the post-election violence.

Two and half years on it is tragic that politicians, for whom these people suffered, shared spoils and abandoned them. The needs of these victims are being forgotten because their voices are consistently ignored.

To uphold the rule of law and have justice for these victims, I hope you will speak up for justice at every opportunity. Domestic and international law is supposed to guarantee that those who committed such heinous crimes face justice.

We must have a special tribunal working in complementarity with International Criminal Court to prosecute those who committed these crimes. It is also important to deny a visa to those suspected of serious crimes.

As individuals and as groups, we must break the silence and speak up about justice for these terrible crimes. I am confident that we can achieve justice. Unless government of Kenya is willing to bring prosecutions for these worst human rights abuses, it will have a hard time achieving political stability and sustainable development even under the new constitution. Impunity leads to conflict, corruption, and lives stunted by fear and intimidation.

Victims don't stop being victims and criminal acts are not simply absolved just because Kenya is promulgating a new constitution. The victims and the public deserve to know the truth about the post-election violence.

New constitutional order calls for a return to human rights and accountability, not to engage in willful amnesia.

The government must operationalise an effective and credible victim-and-witness assistance and protection mechanism, which is one of the basic preconditions for ensuring accountability for human rights violations.

If Kenya wants to show . that it is willing and able to conduct serious crimes trials, it must effectively protect victims and witnesses from intimidation and harassment. Torturers, financiers of violations and those who violate human rights should be brought to account. We should not forget the victims who have gone through trauma and disruption of everyday life and their future.

The right to a remedy and reparation is a basic human right. It is enshrined in numerous international human rights instruments.

Reparation is the last step in the achievement of full human rights protection. Firstly, violations of human rights should be prevented. Secondly, if a violation does take place, it must be investigated by the State authorities, promptly, thoroughly and impartially. Thirdly, victims should have access to justice. And finally, victims have the right to receive adequate reparation.

The fact that reparation is the last step in the achievement of human rights protection might be one reason why so little focus has been put on this issue so far. It should be addressed more consistently and thoroughly by the government, not as a privilege to the victims but as an obligation by international law.

Financial compensation is the most widespread form of reparation. Some damage can be easily estimated in monetary terms. But there are the physical, mental or moral damages. Financial compensation is not the only remedy which victims seek. Other forms of reparation include: restitution of the situation before the violation took place; rehabilitation; satisfaction; revelation of the truth and accountability; and guarantees of non-repetition.

By taking a victim-oriented approach, we affirm our human solidarity with victims of gross violations of human rights. We seek to compensate them for risks which the state could not prevent from turning into damage and harm.

However, reparation can never fully undo the damage that has been done. Gross violations of human rights are irreparable. But this must not impede us from fighting to achieve justice.

The starting point for redress is addressing questions of criminal responsibility. It is necessary to make a real break with abusive policies and practices of the past. If Kenya wants to have a successful transition from an era of impunity to respect for the rule of law, it needs to embrace truth, justice and reparation for human rights violations.

Wainaina is the executive director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict.

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