Witness protection booths accelerating access to justice in Kilifi.

Aisha Lewa (not her real name) 14 years old a girl from Goshi constituency, Kilifi county was defiled by an uncle living in her family’s home. The ordeal began when she was 12 years old just at the time when the uncle was taken in by her parents for college enrollment. Aisha did not know whom to confide to as the young man was loved and trusted and was part of the family. She lived with the pain for two years until she could not take it anymore and reported the case to her class teacher whom reported the same to the village chief and together filed the report to the Malindi police station.

The culprit was apprehended and arraigned in court in January 2019. Meanwhile, Aisha had to attend counselling sessions for her to speak out in detail of her ordeal which she did to the counsellor. However, when she got to court to testify during the hearing of the case, Aisha froze on seeing the accused person. The case had to be adjourned a few times, as Aisha kept freezing every time she came to court to testify.

In 2019 Haki Yetu Organization embarked on delivering witness protection booths to the courts to assist witnesses especially children and vulnerable groups such as people abled differently, witnesses in cases of terrorism to give evidence in court without delay, Malindi court being one of the courts. In the shield of the box which has a special glass where the child cannot see the accused in court Aisha Lewa was finally able to give evidence in court for 7 hours, confidently detailing all that happened to her in the two years in the presence of the accused person.

On 26th June 2019, the Chief magistrate while addressing Gender Based Violence network members in Malindi said,

 Recently Haki Yetu donated two Witness Protection Booths to our court. I am happy to say that we are using them and the results are just fantastic. Yesterday I conducted a hearing wherein the child testified for 7 hours in the presence of the accused person. She was quite relieved when we brought in the booth. It worked perfectly and she was confident. I take this opportunity to sincerely thank Haki Yetu for this generous and timely support. Kudos!!!

The courts were able to listen to all the witnesses and the accused was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment as per the Kenyan Sexual Offences Act. Aisha meanwhile continues to receive professional counseling from Malindi Gender Based Recovery Centre where the service is offered for free.

Aisha’s story is not an isolated case and it speaks of the many cases of incest and defilement in the Coastal region. The courts recognized Haki Yetu’s efforts to aide court hearings as the case had received several adjournments since the girl was afraid to speak in the presence of the alleged perpetrator.

Access to justice remains our key area of operation and we are greatly relieved that this booth truly is bringing justice to the vulnerable witnesses.

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