Kenyan police continue to kill crime suspects and protesters in cold blood despite persistent calls to end the killings and the use of excessive force.
Human Rights Watch said on Thursday, the killings are the latest in a longstanding pattern of excessive force and unlawful killings in Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods.
Since December 25, 2019, police in Kenya have shot dead at least eight people in Nairobi’s Mathare, Kasarani, and Majengo settlements.
The international rights group urged Kenyan authorities to urgently investigate all alleged killings, many of which have been documented by Kenyan and international organizations, and ensure that all those responsible are held to account.
“Kenyan police are shooting young people dead in total disregard of the rules for the use of force,” said Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kenyan authorities should end these unlawful and unjustified killings of unarmed people and bring officers involved in the killings to justice.”
In July 2019, Human Rights Watch documented 21 cases of police killings of men and boys in Nairobi’s low-income areas of Mathare and Dandora, apparently with no justification, claiming they were criminals.
On January 24, 2020, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) said it had recorded an increase in the number of abuses by police, including killings, to 3,200 in 2019 alone.
On January 23, 2019, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said government would stop reckless shootings and killing of suspects, which he attributed to rogue officers.
Kenyan media have frequently reported killings in low-income neighbourhoods. In May 2018, the Standard newspaper reported that police in Nairobi’s Dandora low-income area had killed at least 10 people aged between 18 and 23 in just one week.
In October 2018, the Daily Nation reported that police killed at least 101 people in Nairobi and more than 180 people across Kenya in a 9-month period. It was not clear from the media reports whether any of these killings could be considered justified.
Under Kenya’s National Police Service Act of 2011, lethal force is only justified when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
Kenyan security forces should also abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which stipulate that law enforcement officials should use nonviolent means and resort to lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
The Police Service Act requires police officers who use lethal fire to report to their immediate superior, explaining the circumstances that necessitated the use of force. Police officers also are required to report for investigation any use of force that leads to death or serious injury to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian police accountability institution created in 2011 to investigate and prosecute officers implicated in abuses.
In all cases Human Rights Watch documented, the police did not report the killings or initiate the process for an inquest, as required by law. In some cases, the police did not allow victims and their family members to file reports. In at least one case, the police appear to have collected and hid bullet casings instead of waiting for investigators to arrive, as is proper procedure under Kenyan law.
“Police have an obligation to ensure that all officers comply with the law to investigate all killings and support accountability institutions such as IPOA to ensure those involved in the killings are held to account,” Namwaya said.
“The government, starting with President Kenyatta, should ensure that the killings are halted and that those responsible for gunning down unarmed young men are speedily held to account.” (Source: HRW)