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UN Report Ready on Kenya Killings

A UN human rights investigator has released a draft report on extrajudicial killings in Kenya. Kenyan officials have rejected the report's recommendations, which include removing the country's police chief and attorney general.

In a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next week, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, recommends that Kenya's police chief, Hussein Ali, and attorney general Amos Wako resign.

The report repeats recommendations Alston made at the end of a trip to Kenya in February, where he investigated allegations of illegal killings by the police force.

"Any serious commitment to ending the impunity that currently reigns in relation to this issue by the police should begin with the immediate dismissal of the police commissioner. The resignation of the attorney general of Kenya is in my view an essential first step to restoring the integrity of the office and ending its role in promoting impunity," he said.

Alston is also recommending the creation of an independent commission to investigate human rights abuses. These include some 500 cases of police killing people suspected of belonging to the Mungiki criminal gang; alleged executions by the military in a campaign last year against the Sabaot Land Defense Force militia in western Kenya; and violence that erupted following Kenya's disputed elections in December 2007.

Kenyan officials have rejected Alston's allegations. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua has issued a statement calling the charges "paternalistic, unhelpful and uncalled for."

Forestry minister Noah Wekesa, an ally of President Mwai Kibaki, also rejected the report."We believe that a lot of it was too much politics in that report rather than fact, and therefore we have discounted that report completely. We believe that the steps the government has taken particularly to deal with Mungiki and like-minded organizations is the right one. We have a reform process within our police that is ongoing. We are not bound to go by this report in any way," he said.

But officials from Prime Minster Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, which shares power with the president's party in Kenya's coalition government, have been more receptive to Alston's findings.

The report has also been welcomed by human rights advocates. Paul Muite, a prominent lawyer and former lawmaker, said the report contains little that should be surprising."It's merely reiterating what everybody knows, what we ourselves as Kenyans have been saying. That the judiciary is completely cowed to the executive as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the executive which has been responsible for sanitizing violations of human rights in this country and needs a complete overhaul," he said.

Human rights NGOs, including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, have released their own detailed reports on extrajudicial killings. The head of the Oscar Foundation, an NGO that took the lead in accusing the police of illegal killings, was himself assassinated in Nairobi earlier this year.

Other recommendations in Alston's report include establishing an improved witness protection program and overhauling the judicial system.

The official report will be released next week when Alston presents his findings to the Human Rights Council. Members of the Kenyan government will also make a presentation. They are expected to argue that the report threatens Kenyan sovereignty.

Alston has also urged the International Criminal Court to consider conducting an investigation in Kenya.