By Human Rights Watch Press
Published September 12, 2013
Kenyan Parliament should reject amendments to police laws that would expand the legal use of firearms and weaken civilian oversight over police abuses.
In a statement issued on September 12, 2013, Human Rights Watch warns that the proposed amendments–set for debate before the end of September 2013–could exacerbate worrying patterns of police abuse and extrajudicial killings besides jeopardising long-awaited police reforms.
“Kenyan lawmakers shouldn’t be expanding police powers when there are such serious concerns about police abuses,” says Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, parliament should focus on improving accountability for extrajudicial killings by police and on other much-needed reforms.”
In May 2013 the attorney general proposed amendments to the National Police Service Act of 2011 and the National Police Service Commission Act of 2011. Among other changes, the amendments would expand the legal use of firearms to include protecting property and preventing someone charged with a serious crime from escaping lawful custody.
The current laws already allow for the use of lethal force by the police when their lives or the life of another person are in danger, but only when all other peaceful means are inadequate. Further amendments go against international standards. International law is directly incorporated into Kenyan law under the constitution.
Kenyan security forces should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Human Rights Watch says. The principles call upon law enforcement officials to apply as much as possible nonviolent means before resorting to force and firearms, and to use intentional lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life. The principles also require governments to ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense.