Harmonizing Justice: The Incorporation of Diversion into Kenyan Law

In a monumental stride towards justice reform, Kenya has incorporated diversion into its legal framework, aligning its practices with various international and regional instruments that advocate for alternatives to prosecution.

This article explores the profound impact of these instruments on the Kenyan legal landscape and how they reinforce the country’s commitment to a more progressive and rehabilitative criminal justice system.

International and Regional Commitments

Kenya’s commitment to diversion is reflected in its ratification of several international and regional instruments that explicitly endorse the implementation of diversion or similar practices:

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):

Ratification of the UNCRC emphasizes the importance of protecting the rights and well-being of children in conflict with the law, aligning with the principles of diversion.

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules):

The Tokyo Rules provide guidelines for non-custodial measures, emphasizing the importance of diversion as an alternative to incarceration.

United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh guidelines):

The Riyadh guidelines underscore the preventive aspect of juvenile delinquency, emphasizing diversion as a proactive approach.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child:

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child further solidifies Kenya’s commitment to protecting the rights and well-being of children through diversionary practices.

Ouagadougou Plan of Action:

The Ouagadougou Plan of Action, focusing on accelerating prisons and penal reforms in Africa, recognizes the role of diversion in reshaping criminal justice systems.

Constitutional Foundation

Kenya’s Constitution establishes a robust legal foundation for the incorporation of diversion into national law. The general rules of international law, including treaties, form an integral part of Kenyan law. Treaties, once ratified, become a binding part of Kenyan law. This constitutional provision underscores the significance of international instruments in shaping Kenya’s legal landscape.

Legal Responsibilities

The Constitution, international treaties, and national legislation collectively impose a responsibility on the Government of Kenya to ensure the availability of alternatives to prosecution. By ratifying these instruments, Kenya commits to aligning its legal system with global best practices, emphasizing rehabilitation, and safeguarding the rights and welfare of individuals, particularly children, involved in the criminal justice system.


Kenya’s incorporation of diversion into its legal framework marks a significant leap forward in the pursuit of a fair, rehabilitative, and internationally aligned criminal justice system. By ratifying key international and regional instruments, the country not only embraces global best practices but also reaffirms its commitment to the well-being of its citizens, especially the vulnerable. As Kenya navigates the implementation of diversion policies, the harmonization of international ideals with national law positions the country at the forefront of justice reform, paving the way for a more humane and effective legal system.