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Kenya: Spotlight on rights violations

Kenya: Spotlight on rights violations


Eight Kenyan and international human rights organizations have faulted Kenyan security forces over extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees.

The groups jointly reached out to president Uhuru Kenyatta through a letter on Saturday, urging him to establish a commission of inquiry to probe into the rights violation reports.

As the world marked the International Human Rights Day on December 10, rights bodies and media outlets have found credible evidence that the Kenya Police Service, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), the Kenya Wildlife Service, (KWS), and the National Intelligence Service (NIS), have killed, disappeared, and tortured people suspected of being terrorists or criminals.

Justice for such cases has been inconsistent and victims are often left without avenues for redress.

In 2013, Open Society Justice Initiative and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) found that anti-terrorism police were involved in the killings and disappearances of individuals suspected of links to Al-Shabaab in the coast region. In 2014, a Human Rights Watch report implicated anti-terrorism police and the General Service Unit in similar abuses in Nairobi. In 2015, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights found that multiple units of the national police, military, and wildlife police were involved in torture, arbitrary arrests, killings, and disappearances of individuals linked to Al-Shabab at the coast, in Nairobi, and in the northeast. In 2016, Human Rights Watch found that both the military and police were implicated in at least 34 cases of disappearances and 11 cases of killings in the northeast and Nairobi.

In view of the widespread nature of these abuses and the fact that multiple security units are usually involved, especially in counterterrorism operations, it is unlikely that existing accountability institutions can effectively investigate and ensure justice for the victims and their families. This is why President Uhuru Kenyatta needs to establish a special commission of inquiry in line with the Kenya Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1962, the organizations said. Under this Act, the president has power to appoint a special commission to investigate a particular matter of public interest.

Allegations of abuse extend from the coastal region to Nairobi and the northeast. Most of the abuses in these regions have been in response to Al-Shabab attacks. Kenyan media and human rights organizations have recently been reporting another worrying trend in killings of young people by security forces – mainly the police.

Cases of killings of young people in rural areas and informal settlements, or low income areas in urban centers have been on the increase and yet are rarely investigated. Although the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian policing accountability institution, has a mandate to investigate such cases, their widespread nature and the possibility that other security agencies may be involved alongside the police, calls for a special mechanism.

“These violations must not be swept under the carpet. The president must take action to ensure the victims get justice, in line with the oath he took to protect the constitution,” said Abdullahi Halakhe, East Africa researcher at Amnesty International.

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