|Article by Human Rights Watch
Published January 13, 2008
The Kenyan government should urgently and publicly order the police to stop using excessive, lethal force against public rallies in its clampdown on dissenting voices against the disputed re-election of Mwai Kibaki as president, Human Rights Watch says.
Opposition Orange Democratic Movement has called for protest rallies from January 16, 2008 in defiance of the government’s broad ban on public gatherings, prompting concerns that new clashes could result in further deaths and injuries.
“Kenyan security forces have a duty to rein in criminal violence and should protect people, but they shouldn’t turn their weapons on peaceful protestors,” says Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should make it very clear that police will be held to account for using lethal force against people for simply
Since the disputed December 27, 2007 presidential elections, Kenyan police in several cities have used live ammunition to disperse protesters and disperse looters, killing and wounding dozens. Some observers and even police have described the police response as an
Human Rights Watch says they have received credible reports that in Kisumu dozens of people were shot dead by police while demonstrating against the election result announced on December 30, 2007.
Even people who did not attend rallies have been affected. Human Rights Watch spoke to eyewitnesses in Nairobi who saw unarmed individuals hit by police gunfire on the fringes of protests in the Kibera and Mathare slums. One woman was hit by stray bullets that penetrated the wall of her home. Another unarmed man was shot in the leg. A boy watching a protest from the door of his house was shot in the chest. Kenyan human rights organizations reported deaths and injuries involving police in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret.
Human Rights Watch quote a police source who does not wish to be named as having said, “Many of us are unhappy with what we are being asked to do. This ‘shoot to kill’ policy is illegal, and it is not right. We have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters out there.”
In policing demonstrations, the Kenyan police should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Human Rights Watch said. The principles call upon law enforcement officials to apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force only in proportion to the seriousness of the offense, and to use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
Kenyan and international law prohibits a general ban on demonstrations.
“The government should defuse tension by immediately lifting the ban on public assembly and allowing the planned demonstrations to go ahead,” says Gagnon. “The right to peaceful assembly is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy.”
The government has also banned live political broadcasting. Human Rights Watch again urges the Kenyan authorities to immediately lift unnecessary restrictions on media freedom.
Human Rights Watch also called on the government to immediately investigate the deaths that have already occurred during protests and in the Rift Valley. Prosecutions should be carried out where there is evidence of wrongdoing and the victims should be provided an adequate remedy, including compensation.