A "first" in Kenya: police officers are being prosecuted for "crimes against humanity," including the murder of a baby, during post-election violence in 2017, the prosecutor announced Friday, denouncing "systematic attacks on the civilian population."
The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights had documented 94 deaths, 201 cases of sexual violence and more than 300 injuries, attributed mainly to law enforcement.
A six-month-old baby, Samantha Pendo, was beaten by police following a raid in Kisumu, in the west of the country.
"Investigations have established that police officers may be responsible for the killing" of a baby and "other serious human rights violations," according to the statement from the prosecutor's office, which did not specify the identity or number of people targeted.
"The attacks were planned, coordinated and not random," it said, referring to "murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence against civilians.
According to the prosecutor's office, these are "the first cases of crimes against humanity charged under Kenyan law.
The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk welcomed the decision of the Kenyan judicial authorities, saying it is an "important step towards accountability for gross human rights violations in Kenya" after the 2017 post-election violence.
In 2017, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the election, but his main opponent, Raila Odinga, pointed to fraud and challenged the results.
Demonstrations by Odinga's supporters were suppressed by the police.
The prosecutor's office said the delay in the investigation was due in part to "the complexity of the offences.
Kenyan President William Ruto, who was elected in August, announced on October 16 the dismantling of the dreaded Special Services Unit (SSU), a 20-year-old police unit under fire for enforced disappearances and killings. The head of state also promised an overhaul of the police.
"We can effectively suppress crime, monitor, disrupt and apprehend criminals without abducting, torturing, killing or disappearing citizens," Ruto said.
On October 24, four police officers, members of the SSU, were charged with the disappearance of three men, whose bodies were never found.
The Kenyan police have been accused in the past of running hit squads targeting people investigating alleged human rights violations by the security services, including lawyers.
According to Missing Voices, an organization that campaigns against extrajudicial killings in Kenya, 1,264 people have died at the hands of law enforcement since it began collecting data in 2007.
Few investigations into these disappearances have resulted in convictions.