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Families’ Relief at Justice for Joseph, Josephat and Willie


Families’ Relief at Justice for Joseph, Josephat and Willie

Today, at long last, the wait for justice is over.

In 2016 IJM lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM client Josephat Mwenda and their driver Joseph Muiruri were murdered by police.

Willie’s elderly father shared how, since then, he’s been living with ‘wounds which wouldn’t heal’ and a desperate desire to see justice for his son before he dies.

Finally, that wait for justice is over.

Three police officers and one civilian have been found guilty of the murder of Willie, Josephat and Joseph in an important step forward for police accountability.

Nothing can take away the grief or the distress caused by their painful losses and delayed justice, but with this long-awaited verdict, three families can finally begin to heal.

“No one should go through what these three went through and especially from the very people mandated to protect them. 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.” - Benson Shamala, IJM Kenya Director

Today’s verdict will send a message to police officers who abuse their powers that they will be held accountable under the law.

L-R Josephat Mwenda (IJM client), Willie Kimani (IJM Kenya human rights lawyer) and Joseph Muiruri (trusted IJM driver).

A six-year fight

In 2015, Josephat was shot in the hand by a police officer, who then brought false charges against him in an attempted cover up. Officer Leliman’s threats escalated to the point where Josephat was forced to relocate, fearing for his safety.

In February 2016, IJM lawyer Willie Kimani suggested that IJM take his case and began working on it. But on 23rd June 2016, both men were abducted after leaving court, along with trusted driver Joseph Muiruri.

A week later, after an extensive search launched by IJM, the families’ worst fears were confirmed when the murdered bodies of the three men were discovered in the river in Ol Danyo Sabuk.

Four of the five charged with their murders were police officers.

Their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage across Kenya, with lawyers striking and marches taking place against the killings by police that plague the country. But through all this there were three families, suffering in grief, and demanding to see justice done.

Justice at last

In the six years since then, we’ve been working with them to see those responsible held to account. Today, three police officers and a civilian were convicted, and one police officer acquitted.

This is an important turning point for police accountability in Kenya, proving that it’s possible to deliver justice in cases of police abuse of power.

This decision not only brings comfort to the families of Willie, Josephat and Joseph, but gives hope to other victims of police abuse in Kenya: justice is possible.

Police abuse of power in Kenya

In Kenya, police officers can abuse their positions by taking advantage of the people they have taken an oath to serve and protect. While most police officers take their pledge seriously, in many instances, police not only fail to protect vulnerable people from violence but are perpetrators themselves. Prior to 2016, few police officers had ever been convicted for murder in Kenya, with the first senior police officer only convicted in 2018.

IJM Kenya works alongside partners to combat police abuse of power. Over the past five years we’ve seen real progress, with 45 officers convicted on murder or manslaughter charges.

While today’s conviction marks an historic moment, many Kenyans continue to face torture and violence at the hands of police officers. In 2021 alone, the Missing Voices coalition recorded 219 cases of police killings and enforced disappearances.

In memory of Willie, Joseph, and Josephat, we will continue to work towards a Kenya that is safer for all its people.

Learn more about our work tackling police abuse of power in Kenya

We’re so grateful for the strong advocacy of the Police Reform Working Group, Missing Voices Coalition, and Justice Centers, and the dedicated work of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), Witness Protection Agency (WPA), and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

We’re also thankful for all who have supported IJM during this time, and who are continuing to help make justice possible.

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