Kenya on the Spot Over Extrajudicial Killings, Disappearances

Kenyan anti-riot police (file photo).
4 October 2018

Nairobi — Kenya is once again on the spot despite ongoing police reforms, with security agencies being accused of continuing to infringe on human rights.

Human rights groups, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority among other stakeholders say cases of human rights violations by security agencies remain prevalent.

They say many victims of such vices and more so extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are yet to get justice due to among other things lack of goodwill, victimization of both witnesses and victims and shoddy investigations.

Reforms, they insist should be anchored on respect of human rights as enshrined in the constitution and other international treaties Kenya is a signatory.

These were remarks made by various stakeholders on Thursday among them a senior human rights advisor at the United Nations Human Rights office of the High Commissioner, in the ongoing two-day consultative forum on extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

Marcella Favretto, a senior human right advisor-OHCHR, says despite the cases remaining rampant, arrests and prosecution remain critically low.

She has called on authorities to come out openly and condemn any act that infringes on rights of the people by ensuring perpetrators are brought to book.

"Over the years, serious concerns about extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have featured prominently in UN communications to the Government of Kenya, treaty body and UPR recommendations, all pointing to the urgency of effective prevention, accountability and remedies," Favretto asserted.

The situation has caught the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council boss Zeid El Hussein, who she says has called for accountability for the "scores of unlawful killings and other human rights violations reported during the 2017 Kenyan elections."

To reverse the worrying trend, she is urging investigating bodies including the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to effectively and promptly investigate all allegations of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

"Relatives have a right, as victims themselves, to know the truth about the circumstances of any enforced disappearances, the whereabouts of their loved ones, the progress and results of the investigation and ultimately the fate of the disappeared person. Relatives or other individuals who speak out on violations should be protected against threats and reprisals," she said.

"Kenya is not short of institutions and laws to prevent abuse in the context of security operations and end impunity."

The scale of allegations, she says are supported by meticulous data collection by Kenyan human rights actors, "including at the grass roots level, leave no doubt that the matter is urgent and requires special attention by government."

Equally urgent, she says is accountability, "because not only extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances continue to be reported, but levels of prosecution and conviction remain low, as noted by the UN human rights mechanisms."

Kenya will next year submit its implementation report for the next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) review before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The country will also undergo a review before the UN Committee against Torture, known as CAT.

According to Favretto, the Committee has sent its questions in advance.

"It wants to hear about numbers of prosecutions concerning extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, the number of cases in which prosecutions resulted in convictions and the punishments in each case."

"We'll stand with victims, survivors and their families in their quest for justice and reparations."

She was speaking during the forum organised by the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) in partnership with United Nations office of the High Commissioner-Kenya, seeking to discuss in depth the issue of extra-judicial execution and enforced disappearances.

- Statistics of human rights violations -

According to IMLU statistics, 822 people died from police bullets between 2013 and June 2018.

Of these, 58 happened between January and June this year.

IMLU acting program coordinator Carol Tunnen says of these are cases of summary executions, people killed during 'protection' of property while other lost their lives under unclear circumstances.

According to their statistics, there are 44 cases of summary executions between January and June.

Some of the challenges hampering the quest for justice, she says include lack of cooperation and full investigations, lack of independent post-mortem report that are used in court to establish the cause of death in extra-judicial killing and threats and intimidation by the perpetrators to the victims.

Others include lack of strengthened witness protection mechanism, delay in compensation awards and normalization of extra-judicial killings by Kenyans.

- Recommendations -

IMLU has called for a commission of inquiry into extra-judicial killings.

They also want accountability mechanism introduced for specialized units operating under the Directorate of Criminal investigations and the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU).

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