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Medico-Legal Circuits: Unveiling Torture’s Truth and Paving the Path to Justice

By Isabella Obara & Sarah Nyakio

The medico-legal circuits organized by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) in Kenya have proven to be an important tool in the fight against torture and related violations. These circuits involve visits and assessments conducted by IMLU professionals to specific areas based on identified needs. The recent circuit took place in Kisumu town, Migori, Nyakach, Rongo, Migori town, and Isebania.

One of the primary objectives of the medico-legal circuits is to gather evidence relevant to investigations of torture and related violations. This includes conducting psychological assessments, legal documentation, and developing litigation strategies in line with the Istanbul Protocol. By obtaining necessary investigation documents and medico-legal documentation, IMLU aims to support research and strategic discussions on the psycho-legal aspects of torture.

During the circuit, various activities were carried out in different locations. In Kisumu, IMLU collaborated with the Kisumu Social Justice Center to discuss the current context and undertake legal documentation. The family of the late J.O., who died in police custody after being assaulted, was visited.

In Bondo, IMLU strategized and agreed on a shared litigation strategy with the family of the late V.O. Recognizing that justice may differ for each survivor and victim’s family, this collaborative approach is crucial.

In Rongo, two victims of the “Maandamano Case Files” willingly came forward for legal documentation and psychological assessments, despite potential fear of retaliation.

In Isebania, the families of two victims of extrajudicial execution and two victims of torture were documented. It was discovered that law-abiding citizens were fatally shot without posing any threat to life or property. Two survivors of the shooting were also documented, with one having been discharged from the hospital shortly before the visit.

Aside from medico-legal documentation, IMLU also prioritizes movement building and advocacy. They engaged with chiefs from the Nyakach sub-county in Kisumu, recognizing their significance as key collaborators in the fight against torture. Additionally, 76 human rights monitors and champions from various organizations within the Migori Civil Society Network were trained on reporting mechanisms of torture, aiming to rebuild trust in the criminal justice system.

Overall, the medico-legal circuits conducted by IMLU serve as a critical step in onboarding cases and enriching case files for potential outcomes of reparations. The recent Migori circuit played a vital role in clarifying key facts, attributing responsibility to the state for the violations, highlighting the psycho-legal aspects of torture, and establishing clear pathways for reparations for the victims.