Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets of Nairobi Monday to denounce alleged extrajudicial killings by police and security forces.
Lawyers, accountants, human rights activists, motorcycle taxi drivers, and others marched to protest the deaths of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and Joseph Muiruri, their taxi driver.
The three men disappeared on June 23, after a court hearing in which Kimani was defending Mwenda against various charges. They are believed to have initially been taken to an administration police compound.
On Friday, the three men’s bodies were found in a river about 70 kilometers from Nairobi.
Kenya's police chief announced that three police officers have been arrested in the case. A court ordered that they be held without bail for two weeks for investigations to be completed. Eric Kiraithe, a government spokesman, told the BBC there were no police "death squads" and that allegations of criminal officers would be fully investigated.
However, Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan human rights activist, says extrajudicial killings are not uncommon in the country.
“It has been a habit by the Kenyan government, when they do not agree with someone, or when they have a problem with someone, instead of actually taking them through the proper government channels, they kill them,” he said.
“I think there’s also fear among the professionals, because in the past they’ve been killing a poor taxi driver, a suspected gangster, a terrorist, but they’ve gone beyond that and now they’re killing professionals for doing their job.”
Human rights activists have decried alleged extrajudicial killings by Kenyan police for years. Late last year, Kenya's Independent Medico-Legal Unit said it had recorded 199 killings by police in 2014 and another 97 in the first ten months of 2015.
A protester holds a sign picturing human rights attorney Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri allegedly killed by police, at a rally in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
True numbers unknown
But other activists said the true number of police killings is difficult to judge, because police usually deny shooting a victim, and many victims' families make only token efforts to pursue justice, due to lack of resources and/or fear of police.
Some of the protesters Monday carried coffins from Uhuru Park to the Supreme Court that said “stop extrajudicial killings.” Others carried buckets of red paint to symbolize bloodshed. Many of the protesters wore T-shirts that said “stop police executions.”
Activists said they were participating because they want justice and full accountability from the police. They also demand the resignations of the inspector general of police, the deputy inspector general of the administration police and the cabinet secretary for internal affairs.
Also, they want an inquiry into all extrajudicial killings in Kenya.
The Law Society of Kenya is planning another protest march for Wednesday.