A human-rights group is bringing fresh allegations of torture by
Kenya's security forces. In a new report, Human Rights Watch says
hundreds of civilians were tortured or beaten during a government
security operation to disarm militants last year.
Human Rights Watch is calling for the
Kenyan government to set up an independent investigation of an October
military operation in the country's northeast. According to the group,
"scores" of men were tortured, at least a dozen women raped, and over
1,200 people wounded during the three-day operation to disarm militants.
Human Rights Watch says those found responsible for crimes should be punished.
report is the latest of several recent accusations to hit Kenya's
police and military. Earlier this year, a U.N. investigator on
extrajudicial killings recommended the dismissal of Kenya's police
chief and attorney general for failing to rein in the widespread use of
extrajudicial killings and other misconduct by security forces.
and international rights groups charge police carried out illegal
killings during an operation that targeted the Mungiki criminal gang
and fired on protesters following disputed 2007 elections.
Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth said the trend is troubling.
is not anywhere near the first time that abusive security forces have
engaged in this kind of misconduct," Roth said. "Increasingly it appears to us that
the security forces have become a law unto themselves. That they stand
above the rule of law that supposedly governs here in Kenya."
police have rejected the accusations of Human Rights Watch and Kenyan
security officials have also dismissed previous accusations of
wrongdoing, criticizing the accuracy and motives of human-rights
investigators. The response of politicians in Kenya's grand coalition
government has been more divided.
Members of president Mwai
Kibaki's Party of National Unity have tended to dismiss the claims,
while many in Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement
have said the charges should be followed up.
operation described in the report was launched after clashes between
clans near Mandera left more than 20 people dead. Such violence
is common in the area, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia.
to interviews conducted in the area by Human Rights Watch, security
forces would round up all of the men in a town and beat them in an
effort to locate militia members and weapons. Witnesses said the
beatings were carried out with canes or iron rods and that some men's
testicles were crushed or ripped open. Widespread looting was also
Roth says official misconduct cannot be dismissed as the work of a few bad apples.
was clearly an operation directed from above. And the torture that we
described in this report was systematic and widespread, so much so that
we believe there is a good case to be made that crimes against humanity
were committed," said Roth.
According to Human
Rights Watch, the security operation may not even have been
particularly effective. The group says many of the weapons handed over
by the community, in an effort to end the crackdown, were purchased
from arms dealers across the border in Somalia, rather than recovered
from militia members.