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Kenyan Rights Group Accuses Security Forces of Murder, Torture


FILE - A riot policeman stands guard outside the main gate of the National Assembly in Kenya's capital, nairobi, Dec. 18, 2014.

FILE - A riot policeman stands guard outside the main gate of the National Assembly in Kenya's capital, nairobi, Dec. 18, 2014.

Affey Ali Abdullahi landed face down on the floor of his house shortly after the four policemen arrived.

“I did not know they were looking for me. Then my neighbor pointed towards my house," Abdullahi said. “One of the police officers stuck his boot around my head. They told me to identify myself. I gave them my national identity card and my mobile telephone. They blindfolded me and threw me into the waiting car.”

It was May 4th, slightly more than a month after al-Shabab gunmen stormed Garissa University College in eastern Kenya, killing more than 150 people, most of them students.

Abdullahi, an ethnic Somali, was rounded up with close family members. His captors asked Abdullahi, still blindfolded, to lead them to the home of his brother, Hussein Abdullahi. He was not at home, so the police instead arrested his wife and daughter.

So began Abdullahi's three-week brush with security forces hunting for supporters and members of the dreaded al-Shabab terror outfit.

"Two officers started beating me up, one whipping me with the cane while they kicked me. I bled on my back and my entire body. Blood oozed out. They demanded I [tell] them the whereabouts of the al-Shabab. They asked whether I was a member and if I knew any other members. I told them I didn’t know anything about them. I am a disabled man and a Quran teacher,” Abdullahi, 48, told VOA from his home in Wajir, northeastern Kenya.

Abdullahi was held first by police and then at a military camp near his home, subject to severe whippings that rendered him incoherent, he said.

Rights Body Accuses Police

His case is among the more than 120 cases of gross human rights violations highlighted by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) in a report released Tuesday.

The state-funded rights body accused law enforcement agents of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings during counterterrorism operations since the Garissa attack on April 2nd.

Some 25 people have been killed and 81 people have gone missing, said KNHCR calling for parliamentary investigations into alleged abuses by the police and Kenya Defense Forces.

Among the missing:

* Abdikafir Abdi Ismali, arrested September 4 in Madogo, Garissa.
* Asha AdbiSalan Abdullahi, arrested at a tea shop in Nairobi's Eastleigh neighborhood July 20.
* Abdikadir Sheikh Mohamed Dahir, a master’s student at a Nairobi university, who disappeared in July.

Abdullahi's brother Hussein presented himself to police after Abdullahi's arrest. He too is now missing, though his wife and daughter were released.

KNCHR said torture techniques used by Kenyan authorities include severe whipping, boot kicks, electric shock, mock execution, denial of food and water boarding.

“Combating terrorism through official terror is counterproductive and only serves to foment further resentment, increase radicalization and fertilizes the breeding grounds of future terrorists,” said KNCHR Vice-Chair George Monyoncho.

The national human rights body says it is illegal for the military to detain civilians and insists authorities must provide evidence of a suspect's involvement in terror activities.

Kenyan homeland security expert Richard Tuta says some counter-terrorism strategies have shown results but risks are there.

"Failure to convince the families and the community the suspects are involved in terrorism makes people feel they are targeted. They will still believe the suspects killed or missing were innocent. With that, you have more radicalized youths and you start hearing some statements like it's us against them and let's defend ourselves,” Tuta said.

The Kenyan police deny any wrongdoing. The police insist some of those identified by rights organizations as missing could have joined al-Shabab in Somalia as fighters.

“The government policy is not to kill anyone. Our policy is to have criminals taken alive because that is what gives us the tenacity and the opportunity to get into proper investigations and get to the roots of these criminals. It is not our policy to have anyone killed,” police spokesman Charles Owino told VOA.

Abdullahi wants to know what happened to his brother.

“I will be happy with any news, even if I am told he is dead, that will give us some closure, time to heal and move on with our lives," he said.

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