NAIROBI, KENYA – As the year ended, IJM Kenya began a groundbreaking partnership with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) in Kenya. The ODPP is a newly established government agency that is responsible for all criminal prosecutions in Kenya.
Leading The Reform Movement
On December 21, 2012, IJM Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution – the first time the agency has entered into a full-length agreement with an NGO.
"The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution is moving towards the front of the reform movement in Kenya," said Shawn Kohl, Field Office Director for IJM Kenya, adding that the agreement formalizes the collaboration between IJM and the ODPP to ensure Kenya's laws protect the most vulnerable citizens.
The agreement between IJM and the Kenyan government recognizes the value and importance of IJM's innovative case collaborative approach. According to the MOU, IJM and ODPP staff will investigate and prosecute cases of child sexual assault and law and order together. The strategy is a bold approach by the ODPP to join forces with civil society to fight against injustice.
Making Justice For The Poor A Reality
By prosecuting cases together, IJM and the ODPP will develop specialized training and advocate for policy changes to bring justice to millions of those who need it, particularly the poor and vulnerable. This signing represents a very important step in the movement to partner with government and make justice for the poor a reality.
IJM has worked with the newly independent ODPP since 2011, and previously worked with its predecessor in the State Law Office. The ODPP was established shortly after Kenya ratified its new constitution in 2010, and it will initiate all criminal prosecutions in Kenya on behalf of the state. The ODPP also has the power to direct the Inspector General of the Kenyan National Police to investigate any criminal matter.
The National Prosecution Service Bill Establishes The ODPP
At the ceremony, IJM and the ODPP advocated to the group of leaders, the legislature in particular, for the final passage and implementation of the National Prosecution Service Bill. IJM Director Shawn Kohl explained that passing the Prosecution Service Bill before the national elections is critical, "otherwise, the passing and implementation of the Bill will not be possible until the second half of 2013."
The bill is essential for the ODPP to carry out very elemental aspects of its mandate. Specifically, the bill will give the ODPP financial independence, a structure that allows for more flexibility, and the ability to set the terms of service for its staff.
Just two weeks after the MOU was signed, the Kenyan Parliament passed the bill – yet another encouraging sign of Kenya's commitment to establish the ODPP as an effective agency. Now, the bill awaits assent from the President to become law.
Around 40 people attended the December 2012 event, including representatives of the Kenya Supreme Court, the Chief Registrar for the Supreme Court, law enforcement agencies, foreign government officials and national and international civil society members.