In Kenya, police kill with near-impunity

Published 7:26 am Friday, December 5, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan officers are killing unarmed terror suspects, shakedown victims and even children — spreading fear, breeding corruption and complicating efforts to deal with terrorism, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Although death squads have long been known to operate in Kenya, a dozen interviews with victims, police, lawyers, activists and analysts suggest a big share of the violence is also being carried out by ordinary beat cops. Evidence examined by AP suggests they are almost never punished.

“The broader picture here is one of utter impunity,” said Leslie Leftow, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “My fear is that the pattern of extrajudicial killings will only worsen.”

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The AP spoke to six family members of victims who say their relations either disappeared or were found dead after being taken into police custody. One human rights lawyer said officers shot a 14-year-old during a botched raid and tried to dump her body in a forest. Two survivors of a May 13 police shooting in Nairobi told AP an officer killed their friend after failing to extort a bribe.

“Illegal killings are the norm rather than the exception,” Dr. Eric Thuo, a forensic specialist at the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, a Kenyan human rights organization, wrote in a recent report.

Thuo combed through the forensic records for 1,873 gunshot-related deaths in six major urban areas between 2009 and 2014. He found that police were involved in nearly two-thirds of those deaths, many of them suspected assassinations.

Some killings take place in broad daylight. Mohammed Gulow, 34, and Adan Hussein, 33, saw their 21-year-old friend Aliyow Alinoor shot dead by police on a street corner in Nairobi’s Mukuru slum after the survivors say they failed to pay a 50,000 Kenyan shilling (roughly $550) bribe.

Kenyan police spokeswoman Zipporah Mboroki declined to comment about the allegations of police executions. The Independent Police Oversight Authority would not comment on how many of the police killings were suspected of being extrajudicial assassinations.