Police killings, torture cases on the rise – report
Some 482 cases of torture and related violations have been documented in the last one year, compared to 232 in 2022.
Of them, 351 were torture, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, 128 were extrajudicial executions and three were enforced disappearances.
Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) said the majority of victims or survivors were young male adults aged 18-35 years, accounting for 314, while those aged 36-65 years constituted 121, 0-17 years comprised 44 and those over 65 accounted for three persons.
IMLU Executive Director Peter Kiama yesterday said despite President William Ruto’s promise to protect urban youth from police abuse, they continue to be disproportionately affected by these violations.
“The data implies that the President’s efforts to address police abuse and protect urban youth have fallen short, as evidenced by the increase in TRVs and the demographic profile of the victims,” he said.
“This situation calls for a critical re-evaluation of the strategies and measures put in place to fulfil the promises made regarding police reform and youth protection,” he added.
The data was collected from October 1 last year to August 31, 2023. Out of the 482 cases, 415 were males while 67 others were females.
“Cases of torture and related violations (TRVs), more than double the cases documented in a similar period between the years 2021-2022. This marks a staggering increase of 250 cases compared to the 232 violations reported in a similar period last year,” IMLU said.
Kiama has now called upon the President to establish a special tribunal to investigate and adjudicate cases of gross human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and inhuman treatment
President Ruto has also been urged to ratify and domesticate the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and also establish the Victim Protections Fund.
The significant increase in cases of torture and related violations (TRVs), from 232 in the previous year to 482 in the period from October 2022 to August 2023, indicates a failure to curb police abuse of power including excessive, unnecessary, illegal and disproportionate use of force and firearms, according to IMLU.
“This alarming rise not only shows a lack of progress but also suggests that the situation has worsened. Furthermore, the fact that the majority of victims/survivors are young adults aged 18-35 years is particularly troubling,” he said.
President Ruto took office with a solemn pledge to enhance the recognition, promotion, and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Kenyans.
He also committed to ending extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances and enhancing police oversight through bodies like the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the National Police Service Commission.
IMLU said the government had performed dismally with regard to democratic policing and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The freedom of assembly, association, expression and media freedom had faced unprecedented threats.
“In the past year, we have witnessed a wave of punitive policing during protests, extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody, deliberate torture of children, interference with investigative authorities, unconstitutional interference of the National Police Service (NPS) and other critical human rights violations,” IMLU said.
Kiama said IPOA’s financial structure and resources had not been prioritised; the promised ombudsman to monitor human rights violations had not been appointed, and cases of abuse had escalated, particularly during public order management.
“Expressions and statements that commend law enforcement violations and issuance of shoot-to-kill orders worsen an already critical situation,” Kiama said.
Chances of accountability have dimmed as a result of police refusal to record complaints from victims of police abuse, and failure to report all injuries and deaths to IPOA as required by law.
“The denial of Occurrence Book numbers, P3 Forms and lack of investigations into police misconduct contribute to a lack of accountability and impunity,” Kiama said.
IMLU also said the decision to transfer the responsibility for addressing enforced disappearances back to the IPOA is a disappointing development as the limitation in its jurisdiction undermines its ability to comprehensively address enforced disappearances and other gross human rights violations perpetrated by various agencies.
“While IPOA plays a vital role in police oversight, its mandate does not extend to covering all perpetrators, including those from the military, Kenya Forest Service, and Kenya Wildlife Service, especially where the latter are not operating under police command,” he said.
Kiama added that the non-operationalisation of the Public Benefits Organisation (PBO) Act and the establishment of the County Policing Authority, remained a cause for concern.
“Equally troubling are instances of government disregard for court rulings, exemplified by the implementation of fuel prices EPRA, despite existing judgments,” he said.
Special Service Unit
IMLU, however, said they noted progress in the appointment of a senior pathologist, indicating a commitment to improving the investigation of reportable deaths.
“However, the full implementation of the Coroner General’s Office is imperative,” IMLU said.
They also noted progress in the completion of the Human Resources instruments in readiness for appointment of the Coroner General; the government’s commitment to resolving all judgments and orders against it within a 60-day timeframe; and the disbandment of the Special Service Unit (SSU).
IMLU has also commended the establishment of a task force on police and prison reforms and the appointment of a Principal Administrative Secretary (PAS) as the accounting officer of the National Police Service.
President Ruto has also been called upon to recognise and support investigative and oversight institutions including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and IPOA and also establish the Coroner General’s Office, ensure financial independence of the police and also expedite the delivery of the report of the ‘Maraga’ Taskforce on Police and Prisons Reforms.