Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Kenya: Police reform key to ending impunity - UN expert

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 25 February 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Kenya: Police reform key to ending impunity - UN expert, 25 February 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49a660d527.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

NAIROBI, 25 February 2009 (IRIN) - A radical surgery of Kenya's police force is necessary to end "systematic, widespread and carefully planned" extrajudicial killings in the country, a UN expert said on 25 February.

The reforms should include sacking the police commissioner and the resignation of the attorney-general.

"The Kenyan police are a law unto themselves and they kill often with impunity," Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, said in a preliminary report at the end of a fact-finding mission.

The government had invited Alston to investigate allegations of unlawful killings by the police, violence in the western Mt Elgon district and murders during the post-election violence in early 2008.

"It is clear from the many interviews I conducted that the police are free to kill at will," he said. "Sometimes they do so for reasons of a private or personal nature. Sometimes they kill in the context of extortion, or of a ransom demand. Often they kill in the name of crime control, but in circumstances where they could readily make an arrest."

There was also compelling evidence that police death squads operated, primarily in Nairobi and Central Province, with the explicit mandate to exterminate suspected Mungiki (an outlawed sect) members.

Outlining 11 preliminary recommendations, which he said would be given in a final report to President Mwai Kibaki as well as the UN, Alston said the president should publicly acknowledge the widespread problem of extrajudicial executions and commit to systematic reform.

"Effective leadership on this issue can only come from the very top, and sweeping reforms to the policing sector should begin with the immediate dismissal of the Police Commissioner," Alston said. "Given his role in encouraging the impunity that exists in Kenya, the Attorney-General should resign so that the integrity of the office can be restored."

Mt Elgon commission

On Mt Elgon, Alston said the government should immediately set up an independent commission because there was compelling evidence the police and the military committed torture and extrajudicial executions against civilians during their 2008 operation to flush out the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia.

"For two years, the SLDF militia terrorised the population and the government did far too little," he said. "And when the government did finally act, they responded with their own form of terror and brutality, killing over 200 people."

Calling for a special tribunal to ensure that Kenya did not descend into chaos during the 2012 elections, Alston urged the media, civil society and international community to take a firm line on its establishment. "At the same time, this is an ideal case for the ICC [International Criminal Court at The Hague] to urgently take up," Alston said.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told IRIN the force gave Alston "all the documents within our resources but he expected too much".

A comprehensive response to Alston's findings would be made by the government, "but from the point of view of the police, we welcome his suggestions that a police officer from another country be invited to vet the internal operations of the force".

Contrary to claims that no action had been taken, some 206 police officers had been prosecuted between 2005 and 2008 for various offences, Kiraithe said. Some 667 officers had been dismissed during the same period for reasons "including criminal offences".

He said the force had offered Alston a chance to peruse some of its files, "but he declined". Kiraithe dismissed the existence of police death squads as "totally false".

A day earlier, the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights released details of a report it issued in 2008. The Cry of Blood gives accounts of alleged executions and disappearances of suspected Mungiki members.

The commission also released a video recording in which a police officer, who was killed by unknown persons in October 2008, claims he witnessed police killings of at least 58 people suspected to be Mungiki members.

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