Civil society organisations have urged the police not to use violence against innocent civilians in their search for suspects in the murder of a chief and an OCS in Tharaka Nithi.
The police have launched an operation in search of the killers of Kamainidi chief Japheth Mukengu and Chuka OCS Joshua Kinyua recently.
The groups, under Police Reforms Working Group – Kenya, yesterday said they had received reports about the violence the police had meted out to civilians.
This came as reports indicated that many residents had fled their homes after heavily armed officers stormed villages in search of the killers.
"We condemn, in the strongest terms possible, event of last week that resulted in the killing of a chief and a senior police officer. However, we are also concerned that the police are violating the rights of innocent people,” said Peter Kiama, the executive director of Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), who read a statement on their behalf.
The group, comprising 19 rights groups, also called on the National Police Service and Independent Policing Oversight Authority, among others, to investigate the alleged shooting of a resident by the police and bring culprits to book.
“We know security agencies have been deployed to the area to beef up security and to arrest persons who took part in the unfortunate killings. However, we call on security personnel involved in the operations to work within the confines of the law,” said Mr Kiama.
His Amnesty International counterpart Irungu Houghton accused Eastern Regional Commander Eunice Kihiko of condemning the whole community and urged the police to go for the individuals involved in the killings.
“Her words might be interpreted to mean security personnel have a right to use excessive force against locals,” said Mr Irungu.
The groups advised locals to cooperate with police by sharing information that would help them in their investigations.
“We urge residents to be calm. In the meantime, the police should follow the law in resolving the murders,” Kiama said.
Last week seven suspects were arrested in connection with the killings.
Five of the suspects were arraigned in a Chuka court, where police were allowed to continue holding them to conclude investigations.
Ms Kihiko said they would not allow criminals to roam the area free. “Any criminal attack on an officer of the State is a direct affront to the State and will be met with the full force of the law. The criminal act against the chief and the OCS is very unfortunate and unacceptable,” she said.