NAIROBI - Four Kenyan police officers were charged with murder Monday, in a case that has thrown a spotlight on alleged extrajudicial killings by Kenyan law enforcement.
The country's high court charged the officers in connection with last month's killing of human rights law lawyer, Willie Kimani; his client, Josephat Mwenda; and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri.
Human rights groups have documented hundreds of cases in recent years where Kenyan police killed suspects without due process. Police have denied such killings take place, but Law Society of Kenya President Isaac Okero says his group knows there are many such cases around the country, and is watching this one closely.
"This one is of great significance to us because it is the first one in which we have lost a member of the bar, and that is an indication to the members of the bar and to the members of the Kenyan public that even the agents of the advancement of the rule of law are now vulnerable to this sort of action," Okero said.
Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri were abducted and reportedly taken to a police compound on June 23, after a court hearing in which Kimani defended his client against what they said were false police charges stemming from an accidental shooting of Mwenda by a police officer in 2015.
Their bodies were pulled from a river roughly 70 kilometers from Nairobi about a week later.
Autopsy results presented in court revealed that the men suffered signs of torture. Mwenda suffered crushed testicles and a fractured skull, while the other two men had injuries inflicted by a blunt object.
“The brutality of the manner in which these three young men were killed appears to have been intended to send a warning to any other Kenyans who want to challenge the impunity of these officers,” Okero said.
The incident sparked protests by human rights groups and the Law Society of Kenya, as well as a call for a weeklong, national attorney boycott.
Calls for a response from the police spokesman went unanswered.