Kenya charges police with crimes against humanity over violence in 2017

Kenya charges police with crimes against humanity over violence in 2017


In a landmark decision, Kenyan prosecutors on Friday said they would charge police officers with crimes against humanity over a deadly crackdown on protests following the 2017 election.

The charges include rape, murder and torture and include the case of a six-month-old girl whose death became a symbol of police brutality during the bloody by-election.

“This is the first crimes against humanity case to be prosecuted under Kenyan law using the International Crimes Act, and also the first prosecution of election-related sexual violence,” said Chief Public Prosecutor (DPP) Noordin Haji, without releasing the figures that the police will be charged.

Dozens of people were killed over a period of four months in police crackdowns after the disputed presidential election in August 2017.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission documented 94 deaths during the crisis, as well as 201 cases of sexual violence and over 300 injuries – most of them attributed to security forces.

“The attacks were planned, coordinated and not random,” said the DPP statement, which said various crimes, including torture, rape and sexual violence, “were committed by or under the authority of senior national police officials.”

The baby, Samantha Pendo, died after being beaten by police during a raid on her home as protests flared in the western city of Kisumu.

Extrajudicial killings are common in Kenya and justice is rare, with few instances of police being held accountable.

– “Groundbreaking” decision –

The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, welcomed the “groundbreaking” decision, saying it was “an important step towards accountability for gross human rights abuses in Kenya”.

The move “is a positive step toward justice and accountability for survivors and victims’ families, including those related to electoral violence, and may strengthen the prevention of future violations,” Turk said in a statement.

A Kenyan investigation in 2019 had found five police commanders responsible for Pendo’s death.

Kenyan police are often accused by rights groups of using excessive force and unlawful killings, particularly in poor neighborhoods.

They have also been accused in the past of using hit squads against those – including activists and lawyers – investigating alleged rights abuses by the police.

The 2017 protests erupted after then-President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared victory, angering supporters of his rival, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The result was annulled by the Supreme Court after a challenge by Odinga, but he boycotted the rehearsal, which was won by Kenyatta.

According to Missing Voices, a campaign group focused on extrajudicial killings in Kenya, there have been 1,264 police deaths since data collection began in 2017.

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