Amnesty International Kenya condemns police over excessive use of force, illegal arrests

Amnesty International Kenya condemns police over excessive use of force, illegal arrests

Police officers engaging protestors during anti-government demos on July 19, 2023. PHOTO | JASE MWANGI | CITIZEN DIGITAL

Amnesty International Kenya has raised concern over the rising cases of police brutality against anti-government protesters which it says have resulted in more than 30 deaths since March this year.

In a statement on Thursday, Amnesty Executive Director Irungu Houghton called on Independent Human Rights bodies including IPOA and the ODPP to probe the deaths and prosecute officers and their commanders who are found culpable.

“Amnesty International Kenya condemns the continued use of force against protestors. The continued attacks, use of excessive, unnecessary and unlawful force, including lethal force, is leading to increased deaths and injuries of both adults and children,” stated Irungu.

“We call for an immediate stop to violent policing and criminalising of protests by the State. We demand urgent investigations and prosecution of police officers and their commanders for excessive use of force by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

Irungu also urged the relevant bodies to prosecute elected leaders and citizens inciting others into committing violence and those calling for the use of extra force by the police.

“We also call on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Police, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to investigate and prosecute those citizens and elected leaders using social media to urge Kenyans to commit acts of violence, hatred and discrimination,” he noted.

“Calls by political leaders urging the police to shoot and/or arbitrarily arrest protestors and brandishing private firearms must be arrested.”

According to Amnesty International Kenya, most of the deaths from the protests have been attributed to suffocation from tear gas and lethal shootings. 

The organization says preliminary investigations have revealed that police have used beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors, and indiscriminate and disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannons which violate the rights of protesters.

Consequently, Irungu tasked the Interior Cabinet Secretary and the IG of Police to come up with ways through which demonstrators will be protected and their rights to picket upheld.

"The Inspector General of the Police, Japhet Koome and the Cabinet Secretary of Interior and Administration of National Government, Kithure Kindiki must take practical steps to guarantee the right of everyone to peaceful assembly and protest," said Irungu.

"We directly call on the National Police Service to facilitate all protests and adopt de-escalation tactics at all times when engaging protestors... The government must protect protestors from intimidation and suppression."

Amnesty at the same time called out the police against recent cases of posing as civilians to arrest protesters reiterating that it is against the law and leads to a lack of accountability.

“We are concerned about the increasing use of non-uniformed officers to effect arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors contrary to the Criminal Procedure Code and Police Standing Orders. For transparency and accountability, police officers must be identifiable by uniform or number badges to avoid abuse of power and other violations,” Irungu noted.

Regarding cases of arrested Opposition leaders and their supporters, Amnesty International says: “Arrests must be carried out legally and not as a tool to punish or intimidate people. All those arrested have the right to know the charges being referred, legal representation, medical assistance and bail or bond within 24 hours."


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