FILE - Anti-riot police fire live bullets into the air to disperse opposition protesters in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 17, 2017. Thursday, a judge in Kenya has found five top police commanders "culpable" for the death of a six-month-old during post-electio
FILE - Anti-riot police fire live bullets into the air to disperse opposition protesters in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 17, 2017. Thursday, a judge in Kenya has found five top police commanders "culpable" for the death of a six-month-old during post-electio

NAIROBI - A judge in Kenya has found five top police commanders "culpable" for the death of a six-month-old in 2017.  The little girl died as police tried to control election-related protests in Western Kenya.  The country's director of public prosecutions may now file charges against the commanders.

Magistrate Beryl Omollo ruled that the five commanders are "culpable" for the death of Samantha Pendo.

Pendo was a six-month-old girl killed in August 2017 as police tried to quell protests in Western Kenya, after President Uhuru Kenyatta was named the winner of the country's presidential election.

Witnesses said anti-riot police stormed into the home of Joseph Abanja and Lencer Achiengs in the town of Nyalenda and clobbered baby Samantha on the head.  She died while undergoing medical treatment.

The public prosecutor's office ordered an inquiry after investigations by Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority failed to determine who killed the little girl.

Omollo read out her decision in court Thursday.

“I have evaluated the entire evidence as presented before me, and I am satisfied that the deceased baby Samantha Pendo did not die as a result of natural consequences, but due to severe head injury caused by blunt force trauma inflicted on her by members of the National Police service,” Omollo said.

The magistrate also ordered the director of the public prosecutions office to investigate 31 more officers who might be linked to Pendo's death.

Pendo’s mother, Lencer Achiengs, told to VOA after the decision that it provides some relief.

“Today I am happy at least some people have been held responsible.  Even if they did not find the culprit, at least some of the officers have been held responsible for what happened to my daughter. It should be a lesson, even if elections are being held, let nobody shed blood because of elections. Elections come and go," Achiengs said.

According to a 2017 report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, at least 33 people were killed by police as they protested the outcome of Kenya's general elections.

Demas Kiprono, Amnesty International's campaign manager for safety and dignity, said today's ruling supports the group's previous findings.

“This means that atrocities happened during our last election and we need to come up with elaborate steps to ensure police accountability so that whenever they are interacting with members of the public in any situation, they are guided by their standing orders and international human rights law regarding the use of force and policing assemblies,” Kiprono said.

The courts have forwarded Pendo's case to the public prosecutor's office for a decision on what charges the police commanders might face.  The timing and seriousness of the charges are still to be determined.