Protester Jaciata Okumu carries a sign during a march against policy impunity in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
Protester Jaciata Okumu carries a sign during a march against policy impunity in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)

NAIROBI - In Kenya, calls for the government to act on extrajudicial killings and disappearances are growing daily.

This week, the body of a nurse who disappeared 10 days ago was discovered in a morgue in central Kenya.  According to local media, investigators say the body had injuries on the hands and neck, showing signs torture.

Extrajudicial killings and disappearances continue in Kenya, despite a push by human rights organizations and Western governments for the country’s government to investigate and take steps to end such incidents.

Kenyan security agencies have denied accusations they are responsible for the killings, blaming rogue police officers instead.

Spike in numbers

The head of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya, Peter Kiama, says the killings of civilians by police have increased.

“We have a situation that is getting out of hand.  This has become a serious national crisis.  We continue to see people within the criminal justice system disappearing in the hands of the police and also increased cases of misuse of firearms by the police leading to extrajudicial executions, but also increasing cases of extrajudicial executions through strangulation by police officers,” Kiama said.

FILE - A protester holds a sign picturing human ri
FILE - 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)

In July, Kenyans were outraged and took to the streets when a human rights lawyer, his client, and a taxi driver were tortured and killed, allegedly by police officers.  Four Administration Police officers are facing murder charges.

Last week, gunmen thought to be police officers walked into a hospital in Mwingi in eastern Kenya and killed a patient who was being treated for a gunshot wound. Kenyan media report the sister of the victim who witnessed the shooting went into hiding after receiving threats.

Kiama said the incident was nothing unusual.

“Witnesses to these (incidents) are coming under threat, and families who would like to seek justice are increasingly getting threatened, even within their household, being visited by suspects and supporters of the suspect to silence them,” Kiama said.

‘Thorough investigation’ needed

A recent Human Rights Watch report documented 34 disappearances in the past two years at the hands of different security agencies.  

The group's Kenyan researcher, Otsieno Namwaya, says the government needs to form a commission to investigate these cases.

“We know this problem of killings and disappearances is a much bigger problem, and that is why we think we need to have a thorough investigation that looks at this problem holistically.... So, if a commission of inquiry is established, people will begin to see something that looks like an investigation and people will finally get to know at least the extent of the problem,” Namwaya said.

Security authorities say all the cases of missing individuals and killings will be investigated, and action will be taken.  Nine police officers are facing murder charges in connection with the killings of civilians in the past two months.