Six people have died in police hands, says Human Rights Watch
At least six people died from police brutality during the first 10 days of Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19, a human rights watchdog claims.
In a report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the officers of using excessive force and brutalising Kenyans for failure to observe the curfew.
Police officers are also accused of breaking into homes and shops, extorting money from residents or looting food at various towns and markets across the country.
“It is shocking that people are losing their lives and livelihoods while supposedly being protected from infection,” said Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Police brutality isn’t just unlawful; it is also counterproductive in fighting the spread of the coronavirus,” Namwaya added.
The research was carried between March 29 and April 14 involving phone interviews with 26 witnesses, relatives, and victims of abuses related to the curfew in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Busia, Kakamega, Mandera, and Homa Bay counties.
The lobby has lamented Kenya’s long-held history of police use of excessive force during law enforcement operations, either in informal settlements or in response to demonstrations, often resulting in deaths.
For instance, in February, the human rights watchdog documented eight cases of police killings, six of them during peaceful protests.
One was in Majengo against the police killing of a 24-year-old man and another in Kasarani against the poor condition of roads in Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods of Majengo, Kasarani, and Mathare.
“There was apparently no justification for these killings,” HRW held.
Although many killings by the police have been well documented by both state institutions and rights organisations, the security officers have rarely been held to account.
In addition, those responsible for investigations appear to focus only on one or two cases that have elicited public outrage and ignore the rest.
HRW has urged the Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai and IPOA to intervene.