Kenyan human rights groups are calling for international and local
investigations into the conduct of Kenya's police force, which they
accuse of brutality and illegal arrests. As Derek Kilner reports from
Nairobi, the groups plan to present evidence to international bodies,
including the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
non-governmental organizations are criticizing the police response to a
series of recent demonstrations protesting the government's sale of a
luxury hotel. Police prevented a march through downtown Nairobi and
arrested several activists who were calling for the country's finance
minister to resign.
NGO leaders call the action a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.
groups have also spoken out about police misconduct on several other
fronts in the past year. They say a police crackdown last year on the
criminal Mungiki gang involved widespread extra-judicial killing.
also criticized police restrictions on public protests following
December's disputed presidential elections. And more recently, groups
have provided reports of torture in a campaign by the police and
military targeting a militia in the western region of Mount Elgon.
Center for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung'u Wainaina says
the police have consistently denied reports of misconduct.
the police were confronted with cases of police torturing people in Mt.
Elgon area, they denied it, yet evidence existed, from both the human
rights groups - the non-governmental organizations - as well as the
statutory body, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights," he
said. "What this clearly shows is the Kenyan police force has been
engaging in consistent and persistent human rights violations, each and
every day. And every time the police is confronted with figures, they
Wainaina says a number of organizations, including the
state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the independent
Kenya Human Rights Commission, and his group, are collecting evidence
to give Kenyan leaders and international bodies.
"We are in the
process of compiling a comprehensive petition to, one, the prime
minister's office, the office of the president, and then we are also
going to share the same documents with the international bodies that
deal particularly on the question of arbitrary arrests, questions of
torture, and also questions of disappearances," he said.
the groups would contact the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights and the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial
killings. The groups also plan to bring legal proceedings in Kenya
against police officials suspected of involvement in crimes, including
Commissioner Hussein Ali.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe,
meanwhile, denies reports of police misconduct. He says the police
have followed the law in responding to requests for public
"The reasoning behind the provisions of the
public order act, as to the notification given to the police, are
simply things like how do you provide security, things like regulation
of traffic to ensure that we do not have unnecessary traffic jams, are
simply issues like any legitimate professional demonstration shall not
be hijacked by the many criminals who are around to commit other
crimes," said Kiraithe. "They are very simple and understandable
things. The law must apply to all of us equally without exception. "
says the Kenyan public is supportive of a tough police response to
criminal groups like the Mungiki and the militia in Mount Elgon.
can tell you if anything, what the community is concerned about is
whether we shall sustain firm action against criminal gangs," said
Kiraithe. "That is the public is very very clear, it is unanimous, that
they would want complete and decisive action on the criminal gangs, and
especially the prosecution on all those people who have been known to
commit crimes on the people."
In June, the Kenya National
Commission on Human Rights wrote to former U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights Louis Arbour recommending an investigation into police and
military actions in the Mount Elgon operation and the suspension of
Kenyan forces from U.N. peacekeeping operations.