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Baby Pendo death: Haji recommends murder, rape, torture charges against police officers

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has recommended that police officers who were arrested over the death of Baby Samantha Pendo in August 2017 be charged with murder.

Other officers arrested during the August 2017 post-election violence in Kisumu County will be charged with torture and rape.

Haji has asked the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to also investigate the arrested police officers’ bosses, saying the junior officers were acting on their supervisors’ orders.

“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) was of the opinion that the concept of superior or command responsibility must be explored for the first time in Kenya’s history. As a result, the DPP directed that prosecution-guided investigations be undertaken by IPOA,” said Haji, stating that the civil society, victims and witnesses were invited to take part in the probe.

“The investigations established that the [junior] police officers may have been responsible for the unlawful killing of Baby Pendo among other serious human rights violations, including raiding homes of innocent civilians and committing various atrocities as part of a systematic and widespread attack against the civilian population in the said-areas.”

Haji said that his office found that the junior police officers “acted under the operation order dubbed Operation Post-Election Mipango”.

“The operation had a well-organised structure with sector commanders, and was executed according to a consistent pattern involving similar victims and similar modus operandi,” said Haji.

The DPP said the attacks occurred in Nyalenda, Nyamasaria, Kondele and Obunga areas in Kisumu County.

“I am satisfied that there is evidence to support the following charges under the International Crimes Act Number 16 of 2008: murder, rape and torture. Consequently, I have directed that the suspects be charged accordingly,” said Haji.

The DPP said he won’t reveal the identities of the suspects “to ensure that the victims and witnesses of the aforementioned crimes are protected”.

“All suspects are innocent until proven guilty,” he said, adding that: “The delay in this matter was caused by the complexity of the offences, investigations and vulnerability of witnesses and victims of the offences.”

Six-month old Samantha Pendo died in August 2017 after police officers reportedly smashed her head while in the arms of her mother, Lencer Awino, in Nyalenda, Kisumu.