22 July 2022
NAIROBI, KENYA – After six years of adjournments and delays in trial proceedings, four out of five accused persons in the killing of IJM lawyer Willie Kimani, client Josephat Mwenda, and trusted driver Joseph Muiruri have been found guilty and convicted. This is a momentous decision that will send a strong message to police officers who abuse their powers that they will be held accountable.
In 2015, Josephat Mwenda, a Kenyan motorcycle taxi driver, was stopped by Officer Frederick Leliman who shot Josephat in the hand. Leliman then attempted to cover up the shooting and bring unsubstantiated and false charges against Josephat, including drug possession, gambling, and resisting arrest. When Josephat took the matter to Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Leliman brought additional traffic related charges against Josephat.
In February 2016, IJM took Josephat’s case. On 23 June 2016, when leaving court, Mwenda, Kimani, and their driver, Joseph Muiruri was abducted. A missing person’s report was filed and an IJM search began. A week later, the bodies of the three men were discovered in a nearby river. In August, five people, including four police officers and one civilian, were charged with the killings.
The trial began in November 2016 and has since had numerous delays and adjournments. Over six years, Justice Jessie Lessit, the judge presiding over the trial, has heard testimony from 46 prosecution witnesses, 34 defence witnesses, and has typed 6,114 pages on the case to date. She says this is the longest case she has ever handled. During the proceedings, she was presented with DNA samples, a chilling confession statement by one of the accused individuals, CCTV footage, and mobile phone data analysis.
Today, three police officers and a civilian were found guilty of the abduction and murder of Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri. A fourth police officer was acquitted.
The families of victims have reacted with joy and relief at today’s long-awaited verdict. It is an important indicator of positive change. Prior to 2016, few police officers had ever been convicted for murder in Kenya, but in the past five years, at least 45 officers have been convicted on murder or manslaughter charges, demonstrating that Kenya’s justice system is capable of delivering justice in cases of police abuse of power.
Hannah Kimani, Willie Kimani’s widow, said that the verdict was “a source of comfort to our hearts, even though it may not bring Kimani back….at least Kimani will not be included in the statistics of people who went through torture, went to abduction, tortured and killed without getting justice.”
Benson Shamala, Country Director of IJM Kenya, said: “Today justice has been served. It has been a long journey. We hope this will bring closure and solace to the family, friends, and colleagues of victims. Although it has taken a long time, we are happy that through this trial, we have seen that the justice system can deliver justice for victims and families. We are encouraged that the Chief Justice is pushing for fast-tracking of cases to end case backlogs. We support her call that cases should be concluded within three years.”
Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, said: “When our colleague and friends were violently murdered in 2016, we could have decided that the dangers of continuing this work were too high. But instead, six years later, I am proud that IJM and partners have made such significant progress in ensuring police accountability. Today, we have taken an important step forward, but much more remains to be done. In memory of Willie, Joseph, and Josephat, we will continue to work towards a Kenya that is safer for all its people.”
This verdict is a big step towards achieving police accountability in Kenya. IJM’s focus is on strengthening justice systems to enforce the law which deters criminals and protects people from violence. We trust that the public prosecutor’s office will review the judgment in relation to the acquitted police officer, Leonard Maina Mwangi, and carefully consider whether there are any grounds for appeal.
MEDIA: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138
Read more about the Mavoko 3 murders here.
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