Amnesty International Report cites major human rights violations in Kenya

Activists and lawyers matching on the streets of Nairobi to demonstrate against the rising number of forced disappearances in Kenya.Picture:David Mbewa
Activists and lawyers matching on the streets of Nairobi to demonstrate against the rising number of forced disappearances in Kenya.Picture:David Mbewa

A report that has been released by Amnesty International 2016-2017 indicates that human rights violation in Kenya is rife.

The violations cut across physical, psychological and elimination of people’s lives.

Justus Nyang’aya, Amnesty Kenya Country Director cautions this might worsen as Kenya is headed to General Election on later in August this year.

He notes the need for peace initiatives and reconciliation activities to be conducted urgently countrywide to avert a dire situation.

The report accuses security forces of carrying out enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity, killing at least 122 people by October.

Cases in point include that of Willie Kimani, a lawyer with a legal aid charity, his client Josphat Mwendwa and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, were abducted on 23 June at an unknown location. Later their bodies were found dumped in a river in Machakos County, eastern Kenya while post-mortem examinations revealed they have been tortured.

On 21 September, four police officers — Fredrick ole Leliman, Stephen Cheburet Morogo, Sylvia Wanjiku Wanjohi and Leonard Maina Mwangi — were found guilty of murdering the three men.  The officers were remanded in custody awaiting sentencing at the end of the year.

Job Omariba, a nurse in the eastern town of Meru was reported to have gone missing in Nairobi on August 21, 2016. His body was discovered at Machakos mortuary on August 30th, 2016. Later that day, the Special Crime Prevention Unit arrested three police officers on suspicion of his abduction and murder.

On August 29, 2016 two policemen walked into Mwingi Level 4 Hospital and shot dead Ngandi Malia Musyemi, a hawker, after he reported to police that he had been carjacked.

His sister witnessed the killing. Officers from Nairobi, Machakos and Embu were assigned to investigate the killing.

“Kenya does not have official database of police killings or enforced disappearance. According to Haki Africa, a human rights group, there were 78 extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearance in Mombasa County in the first months of 2016,” says report.

Some abuses, the report notes, were committed by security agencies in the context of counter-terror operations. For instance, in the context of counter-terrorism operations targeting Al–Shabaab operatives and sympathisers, security agencies were implicated in human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture.

Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based armed group, continued to carry out attacks in Kenya. On October 25, 2016, for example, in the North Eastern town of Mandera, at least 12 people were killed in an attack by Al-Shabaab in a guesthouse hosting members of a theatre group. While the police are carrying out investigations in such cases, it’s the residents who end up being tortured.

Police are also said to have used excessive and lethal force to disperse demonstrators calling for fair election practices. Political opposition, anti-corruption groups and other civil society activists, as well as journalists and bloggers, were harassed.

Families in informal settlements and marginalized communities were forcibly evicted from their homes.

Despite an increase in reported cases of these violations, meaningful investigations were not carried out with a view to ensuring accountability.

On freedom of assembly, the police used excessive and lethal force to disperse protesters in Nairobi and other towns during demonstrations against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Police used batons, tear gas, water cannons and in some cases, live ammunition to disperse protesters marching towards the electoral commission’s office.

A male protester in Nairobi was shot and injured in a confrontation with police as residents of the informal settlement of Kibera protested.

A video showed three policemen kicking and beating a protester after he fell down. At least two people were killed and 54 injured on the same day in Kisumu.

The authorities continued to curtail freedom of expression by intimidating and harassing journalists, bloggers and other members of civil society, particularly by using the ambiguity of the Kenya Information and Communication Act.

At least 13 people were prosecuted under Section 29 of the law, which includes vague terms such as “grossly offensive” and “indecent”.

Refugees and asylum seekers at the Daadab Refugee Camp in Kenya were forced to leave after government revoked the assumed refugee status of Somalis who had fled to Kenya.

To justify the move, it cited national security concerns and the need for the international community to share the responsibility of hosting the refugees.

Daadab is home to 280,000 refugees, of whom 260,000 are from Somalia. The forced repatriation of Somalis raised concerns since it violates international law, and puts at risk the lives of thousands of people.

Rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people were on June 16, 2016 violated by High Court in Mombasa. Two men had earlier petitioned the Court on February 2015 to declare forced anal examination as well as HIV and Hepatitis B tests as unconstitutional. The Court, however, ruled that there had been no violation of rights or breach of the law.

Forced anal examination and forced HIV testing violates the right to privacy of an individual under international law. The High Court’s ruling also breached several human rights treaties ratified by Kenya.

Housing rights of tenants especially families living in informal settlements and marginalized communities continued to be forcibly evicted in the context of large infrastructure development projects.

For instance, in Deep Sea informal settlement in Nairobi, 349 families were forcibly evicted on July 8, 2016 to allow for the construction of the road linking Thika Super Highway to Westlands Ring Road.

The eviction took place without notice and while consultation was taking place between the community and the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA). Unfortunately residents were attacked during the evictions by armed youth ferried in by government construction and private vehicles.

Armed police officers were present and threatened to shoot residents who dared resist the eviction.

All these happened despite KURA and European Union, which is funding the road having assured the residents that they would not be forcibly evicted.

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