Nurse Acquitted in a Pregnancy Complications Case

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today the Court of Appeal of Kenya acquitted Jackson Tali, a registered nurse who was arrested and sentenced to death on murder charges.

Mr. Tali, who has been in custody at the G.K Kamiti Maximum Prison since July 2009 was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2014 after a young woman presenting with pregnancy complications at his clinic died in his care. Mr. Tali was represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

A three Judge bench of the Court of Appeal of Kenya today declared that, “On the whole we are far from satisfied that the offence of murder was proved beyond any reasonable doubt. All that was established was suspicion that the appellant may have had a hand in the death of the deceased, but mere suspicion, however strong, is never probative of an offence in our criminal justice system.”

Kenya’s 2010 constitution provides for the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, among them reproductive health care. It also provides for access to safe abortion services which is a key reproductive health service. In Article 26 of the Constitution, abortion is only allowed if it is in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is a need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law. However, Kenyan women today continue to be denied essential reproductive health services whereas reproductive health care providers are often stigmatized and regularly face harassment, intimidation and physical violence for providing these essential health services. To date, a number of providers have been criminalized by bringing false charges against them in spite of their right to the lawful exercise of their profession.

Said Evelyne Opondo, Senior Regional Director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Finally, after eight years of fighting, Jackson Tali has the freedom he deserves.

“Jackson Tali’s case underscores how abortion stigma leads to the persecution and wrongful imprisonment of health care providers.  

“The government must end the criminalization of health care providers and implement policies to ensure health care workers can offer women the reproductive health services they need.”

With continued uncertainty within the Kenyan public, law enforcement officers and among the health care providers due to lack of clear parameters on abortion services, many more providers will unfortunately continue to be criminalized.   This obstructs health providers’ ability to provide health care to women who present with pregnancy complications and undermines the constitutional rights of women and girls by depriving them from receiving life-saving medical information and services.

In July 2009, a pregnant woman came to a health clinic in Gachie, Kiambu County in severe pain and bleeding. Mr. Tali, who was working at the clinic, determined that she needed to go to a hospital to receive specialized medical attention. However, the woman died in Mr. Tali’s car as she was being transferred to a higher level facility that could better handle her complications. At trial, the High Court judge found Mr. Tali guilty of helping the young woman obtain an unsafe abortion and sentenced him to death. 

In June 2017, the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the conviction of Jackson Tali at the Court of Appeal. During Jackson Tali’s appeal, the Center argued that the court proceedings have taken inordinately long to be availed which continues to violate his constitutional rights to access justice and  fair trial among others.   Other organisations that supported the case include Africa Network for Medical Abortion (ANMA), IPAS and Marie Stopes International (MSI).

The Center has worked across Africa to advance women’s access to reproductive health care through law and policy reform. The Center has filed cases against Pumwani Maternity Hospital and Bungoma County  Hospital in Kenya for the ill-treatment of women seeking quality maternal health care. In 2007, the Center and the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya released the report Failure to Deliver: Violations of Women's Human Rights in Kenyan Health Facilities, documenting how Kenya’s health care sector suffers from systemic and widespread problems that deny women quality reproductive health care. In 2010, the Center published the report In Harm’s Way, which documented the devastating effects of the criminalization of abortion in Kenya before the law was reformed, and demonstrated how the weaknesses in Kenya’s health care system are further exacerbated when it comes to a reproductive health service that is perceived as illegal and is highly stigmatized.