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Rights Groups Demand End to Kenyan Police Extrajudicial Killings

FILE - A woman cries over the body of man who was killed by police, witnesses said, in Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 9, 2017.

Kenyan police killed 107 people last year, according to a report released Friday from a coalition of Kenyan human rights groups.

Most of those killed were young men from slum areas, also called informal settlements.

"Sixty-nine percent of those who were killed were youth between ages of 18 and 35," said Renee Ngamau of Amnesty International. "Twenty percent were below the age of 18 years, that is to say, children. Eighty percent of those who were killed in 2019 are below the age of 35. We are criminalizing youth. We are criminalizing poor youth."

Wanja, who asked to be identified by her first name only, told VOA that police killed her only son late last year in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi. She said she discovered her son and another boy in the street minutes after they were shot, but when she approached the bodies, police cocked a gun at her.

Javan Ofula, a human rights activist, said researchers could not find good cause for many of the shootings.

"These people who have been killed, from the documentation that has been done in the different spaces, some of them have been killed in circumstances that are not holding water. They were not resisting arrest," Ofula said.

Anne Makori, chairperson of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, Kenya's police accountability institution, said of 160 cases of police killings referred to the IPOA in 2019, investigations have been concluded in nine cases. Six have been forwarded to the office of public prosecutions.

Demands from rights groups

The rights groups are demanding reparations for victims and families of extrajudicial killings, and want the inspector general of police to admit extrajudicial killings are a problem that must be stopped.

The groups also want implementation of the National Coroners and the Prevention of Torture Acts, passed in 2017. Makori said the IPOA would like to see this, too.

"About the coroners act, it is an issue of concern even to us as IPOA, because we know the act is in existence but a coroner has not been appointed, so it becomes difficult to operationalize the act, and same with the Prevention of Torture Act," she said. "Those are areas we have not only discussed with civil society, but we have also raised concerns within the government structures."

Kenyan police declined to comment.

In 2018, then-police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said, "It is a fact that suspects have died while in contact with the police." But, he said, each killing should be dealt with individually, and the outcome of each case should be determined "on its own merit."