A human rights watchdog has raised concern over critical deficiencies in fulfilling governance and human rights commitments by the Kenya Kwanza administration in the past one year.
The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) says the president, who is the head of government and the commander-in-chief, failed to rein in police excesses, citing double cases of torture and related violations in his first year in the highest office.
At a media conference in Nairobi today, IMLU noted that a government that had committed in its manifesto to ending police abuse, especially against youth, had retreated on its promises by, among other things, failing to create the critical offices of the Ombudsman and the Coroner General to monitor human rights violations.
IMLU said that data they collected within a year shows staggering figures of victims of extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances and related human rights violations perpetrated by rogue police.
“Our data reveals a troubling trend from October 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023. We documented 482 cases of torture and related violations (TRVs), more than double the cases documented in a similar period between the years 2021-2022.” Peter Kiama, IMLU Executive Director, said.
“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. 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.”
The group’s findings mark an increase of 250 cases compared to the 232 violations reported in a similar period, that is October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022. Out of these, they say, 351 were torture, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, 128 were extra-judicial executions while three were enforced disappearances.
The group’s statement continued to say that majority of victims or survivors were young male adults aged 18 to 35 years, accounting for 314, while those aged 36 to 65 years constituted 121, 0-17 years comprising 44, and those over 65 accounted for three persons.
Saying the situation has worsened by a lack of progress in, or failure to curb police abuse of power including excessive, unnecessary, illegal and disproportionate use of force and firearms, IMLU calls out the Ruto administration to wake up to its promises to enhance accountability, independence and oversight of the police service.
They called upon the president to, among other actions, recognize and support investigative and oversight institutions, establish a special tribunal to investigate and adjudicate cases of gross human rights violations, ratify and domesticate the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and operationalize the Public Benefits Organization (PBO) Act and the County Policing Authorities to facilitate effective participation of citizens and non-profit sector in security governance and general socio-economic development.
They further urged government to enhance opportunities for reparations for victims of violations by establishing the Victims Protection Fund, put in place statutory provisions to ensure financial independence of the National Police Service, and expedite the delivery of the report of the ‘Maraga’ Taskforce on Police and Prisons Reform.