On 22nd January 2020, Mr. John Mwariri, Ms. Janet Kosgei, Ms. Diana Ndashiki and Mr. Ambrose Njagi representing Kituo Cha Sheria (KITUO) met with Mr. Jakob Christensen and Elizabeth Kabari from Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) Kenya to discuss collaboration on a case that HAART had filed in court in November 2019. HAART was founded in the year 2010 to curb human trafficking in Eastern Africa.
Last year, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) referred 5 victims of human trafficking to HAART. They were from Nepal and India. When they were presented before court, the victims refused to testify. The court refused to grant them protective orders. There was also interference from the traffickers using the authorities. The victims were moved to 3 different temporary shelters for protection. HAART filed a petition in November 2019 seeking the release of the victims. On 18th December 2019 the court gave repatriation orders.
The next mention will be on 3rd March 2020.
Since the victims are now safe at home, HAART will continue pursuing the matter in court and will be addressing the following public interest matters: –
The National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons-
This fund is established under Section 22 of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act 2010 to be administered by Board of Trustees. The fund is meant to assist victims in various ways provided under Section 15 of the Act which includes: return to and from Kenya, resettlement and re-integration. The Government has funds set aside to repatriate victims to their homes, but sometimes refuses to pay for their flights. There is no transparency in administration of the trust fund. Does it go to the right people? How much does it have?
Setting up a system and guidelines for the protection of victims.
Parliament enacted the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act on 17th September, 2010. It became operational in 2012. There are neither guidelines nor regulations developed to operationalize the Act. It is not being implemented. There was a National Plan of Action for Combating Human Trafficking Strategic Framework 2013-2017 which was not implemented. The Strategic Framework for 2018-2022 is yet to be released.
When encountered with trafficking cases the DPP charges accused persons with other offences for example child stealing, sexual assault and abduction instead of trafficking in persons.
In cases of child victims, the DPP often repatriates the victims but does not charge the offenders. This leads to future victims of trafficking in persons.
Victim protection- Victims are often treated as criminals. They are unlawfully detained; child victims are usually taken to Borstal institutions instead of shelters. They are usually compelled to testify in order to go home. They are not accorded any privacy in their matters- Media involvement, their names used in pleadings and they testify in open court. It becomes hard to give such a person witness protection since their identity is known by the public.
The government has a shelter in Lower Kabete but has been planning for the building of a shelter for the past 3 years. It also acts like the shelter will solve all trafficking problems.
Investigations- There is no collaboration between the investigating officers and the DPP. Without them working together trafficking cases are bound to fail.
Lengthy court process- The victims stay in safe houses. They cannot leave for fear of being arrested since they lack documentation. When their cases are not heard expeditiously they rather go back home at the expense of getting justice.
The filing of the suit in November 2019 was rushed since the rights of the victims were at stake. HAART did not get a chance to look for funding and partnerships. HAART therefore requests KITUO to join in the matter as interested parties. Other organizations they have approached include: Equality now and Legal Resources Foundation.
KITUO would love to join in this public interest matter and hopes for further collaboration with HAART in other matters.
The HAART team recommended that, All parties joining to do so at the same time to avoid stalling the court process and that a meeting of all organizations joining be conducted before the mention in March.
The KITUO team recommended that, They be provided with the petition and orders in time- both hard and soft copy. They promised to file by March if this is done. HAART could use KITUO’s volunteer advocates to follow up on their cases in other areas of the country. HAART could also refer cases that are both trafficking and refugee matters to the KITUO Forced Migration Programme (FMP) in Pangani. KITUO would share contacts for the FMP and Mombasa offices.