LSK: Police should not use excessive force during protests

Law Society of Kenya (LSK) CEO Florence Muturi, President Eric Theuri, Nairobi Representative Gor Ochieng and Vice President Faith Odhiambo addressing the media at their Head office in Nairobi on July 18, 2023, on the planned Azimio demonstrations. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A lawyer’s lobby has expressed concerns over the widespread cases of violence during protests and cautioned police not to use excessive force.

Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president, Eric Theuri, said the right to protest peacefully plays a crucial role in democratic societies.

Theuri however said that the right to protest peacefully does not permit individuals the authority to engage in violent or destructive behavior.

“Violence, vandalism, looting, or any form of aggression undermines the purpose and legitimacy of peaceful protests. These actions, divert attention from the message and leads to unnecessary disruption of public order thereby diminishing the overall essence, impact and credibility of the protest,” he said.

Theuri reminded the law enforcement agencies to observe respect for the principles of democracy and human rights during the protests.

“It is the responsibility of the National Police Service (NPS) who are charged with the mandate of maintaining law and order to abide by the provisions of Public Order Act (Cap 56) of the Laws of Kenya) and provide security to members of the public during protests,” he said.

He said the policing of protests should seek to facilitate peaceful assembly and any use of force must be guided by principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and professionalism to avert heightening tension and provoke violence from the protestors.

Theuri called upon the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigations into the deaths and injuries as well as the use of force and live ammunition by the police in the last protests.

Further, Theuri termed the security withdrawal of some opposition leaders as callous and irresponsible.

He observed that the move demonstrates the police service has taken sides in a political contest and the act aggravates the situation as opposed to calming down the case of heightened tensions.

He said that it is regrettable that the Inspector General of Police is openly displaying bias in the provision of security to political leaders.

Theuri added that if security was to be withdrawn from the political leaders, then it should be withdrawn from all and that the politics of intolerance should not be practised by the police.

He said that the right to peaceful protest provides a platform for people to express their views, call for change, and influence policies.

Theuri also urged the members of the public to maintain peace during protests and that the right to demonstrate is protected in law when it is peaceful and unarmed.

He appealed for calm and called for open national dialogue to address social, economic and political grievances that will aim to identify lasting solutions in the interest of all Kenyans.

“I urge all citizens, government officials, community leaders, and civil societies to come together and answer to the call of national dialogue. The Law Society is willing and ready to offer expert mediators to bring together the different political functions in order to find lasting solutions to the challenges we face as a nation,” Theuri said.