Tame killer cops, human rights bodies demand

Police beat boda boda operators in Kisumu during a protest. Rights lobbies want police brutality stopped. [Denish Ochieng', Standard]

Human rights bodies have demanded that the government takes action on police involved in extra-judicial killings.

Appearing before the Senate's Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee last week, the rights defenders said they wanted regulations for gun control among police officers mooted.

Some of the entities that appeared before the committee are Amnesty International, Haki Africa, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa), Missing Voices, Social Justice Centres Working Group, Defenders Coalition and the Independent Medico Legal Unit (Imlu).

While making their submissions, the human rights bodies narrated how police killed innocent civilians and proceeded to demand money from the victim's families to pay for bullets used.

“Some families are forced to pay for the bullets that were used to kill their kin," Wilfred Olal, a human rights activist, said.

"They tell you seven bullets were used and they ask you to pay Sh3,000 for every bullet. You are also asked to pay for postmortem," he added.

Mr Olal explained how every day police move around slums arresting as many as 100 young men, who are stashed into trunks, after which families never trace them.

Defenders Coalition Director Francis Ndegwa explained how extra-judicial killings were common during electioneering periods.

“This is a continuous trend that is widely observed during elections in perceived opposition strongholds. We feel that if this is not addressed, police will continue killing innocent Kenyans," said Mr Ndegwa.

Amnesty International-Kenya Executive Director Irungu Houghton said forced disappearances continued to undermine the rule of law.

He asked Parliament to undertake a fact-finding mission in counties to establish how deeply extra-judicial killings are entrenched.

“Nairobi and the coastal counties witness the highest incidences of police brutality," Mr Houghton said.

"We ask the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to provide data on police killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya.”

According to Missing Voices, 107 people were reported missing in 2019 while in police hands.

Since the beginning of 2020, at least 14 people have been reported killed by police.

Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid accused police of hiding behind fighting drug trafficking to kill and torture.

“Last week we had two people shot in Tudor area of Mombasa. Two weeks earlier, a 17-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant, died in police custody,” said Mr Khalid.

Ipoa, a government agency charged with taming rogue officers, admitted that there were legal gaps that needed to be fixed if extrajudicial killings were to be ended.

Ipoa chairperson Ann Makori said there was need to form an independent oversight body to hold police who use guns wrongly to account. "Gun control regulations are not in place, and this creates a lacuna that leads to abuse of force and firearms,” said Ms Makori.

Last month Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja made a statement in Parliament on arbitrary killings of innocent young Kenyans by police in the city.

“It is totally unacceptable for us to continue condoning the level of impunity that is being displayed by our police officers in broad daylight," said Mr Sakaja.

"The mission of our National Police Service is very clear; to provide professional and people-centred service through community partnerships."

In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Prevention of Torture Act, and the National Coroners Service Act.

The laws have criminalised all forms of torture and sought to establish an office to investigate all violent, sudden and suspicious deaths locally.

They are also meant to provide forensic services to police through scene management.