Kenya AG Challenges Court’s Jurisdiction in Mt. Elgon-Saboat Case

Kenya AG Challenges Court’s Jurisdiction in Mt. Elgon-Saboat Case
Arusha, 6 December 2011: The Attorney General of the Republic of Kenya has asked the Appellate Division of the EACJ to set aside a ruling by the Court’s First Instance Division affirming its jurisdiction in a matter where the Kenyan Government is accused of failing to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for executions, acts of torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment of over 3,000 Kenyan residents in Mount Elgon District. 

Appearing before Justices Harold Nsekela, President, Philip Tunoi, Vice President, Emillie R. Kayitesi, Laurent Nzosaba and James Ogoola Tuesday, Senior Principal Litigation Mr. Anthony Ombwayo, representing the Attorney General, argued that the First Instance Division was wrong in ruling that it had jurisdiction to hear the matter because matters concerning human rights cannot be heard by the Court according to Article 27(2) of the EAC Treaty.

In addition, the counsel contended that the matter was only filed in 2010, outside the two-month timeframe provided for by the Treaty, even though the respondent, Independent Medical Legal Unit (IMLU), had knowledge of the same by 2009.

IMLU in 2010 sought redress for the victims of the said acts in Mount Elgon District, allegedly carried out between 2006 and 2008 and which the applicant said were in violation of the Treaty, Kenya’s laws and several international human rights conventions.

The said acts were a result of land settlement schemes in the Mt. Elgon area where an armed militia known as Saboat Land Defence Force was formed in the district and grew to terrorize and execute residents of that area, causing the government to deploy security forces to carry out an operation known as OPERATION OKOA MAISHA.

During the operation, residents of Mt. Elgon reportedly lost their lives and were tortured in an attempt to flush out the members of the Saboat Land Defence Force, houses were burnt, women and young girls were raped, innocent residents were arrested and money was extorted from residents for release.

Ms. Kethi Kilonzo, an advocate for IMLU however prayed Court to uphold the ruling of the First Instance Division asserting that what the claimants were asking for was a declaration that the Kenyan Government’s act of failure to investigate, prosecute and punish was in contravention of the Treaty.

On filing out of time, she argued that as long as the Government had not investigated, prosecuted and punished anyone, the claimants had filed their case in time, noting that the Kenyan Government had only made public last year the report on investigations it carried out after this case had been filed at the EACJ.

Court said its judgment on the matter would be delivered on notice.

About the EACJ

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or the Court), is the judicial arm of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.

Operationalized in November 2001, the Court’s major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.

Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the Summit determines its permanent seat. The High Courts of the Partner States serve as sub-registries.

For more information please contact:

Dr. John Ruhangisa, Registrar
Email: ruhangisa@eachq.org

Ms. Geraldine Umugwaneza, Deputy Registrar
Email: umugwaneza@eachq.org

Owora Richard Othieno, Head of Department;
Corporate Communications and Public Affairs;
EAC Secretariat
Tel: +255 784 835021; Email: othieno@eachq.org

East African Court of Justice
Arusha, Tanzania
http://www.eacj.org

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