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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Police killing us like rats, cry Nairobi slum youth

Shocked women  in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi  on April 20, 2016 as they view  the scene where 8 youths were killed by police 
Shocked women in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi on April 20, 2016 as they view the scene where 8 youths were killed by police PHOTO/COLLINS KWEYU

Throwing frequent glances over his shoulders, Dan Kariuki (not his real name) keeps asking this writer if he’s sure has not been followed as he ushers me into his hideout in the Mowlem area of Dandora.

When the Star visited the 16-year-old extrajudicial killings survivor, we soon found out what he has witnessed and gone through is a living nightmare.

“I had to flee Kitari, our home, and made this place my hideout,” he says, fidgeting, with the veins in his temples protruding and seeming to throb with tension and fear. In December, on separate occasions, he explains, the police gunned down all his seven closest friends, including his 14-year-old only brother.

“Every day we woke up and all we would do is collect the bodies of our friends. Little did I know we had been marked for execution. I had to flee for my life,” he says.

“I have been forced to live by the gun. I will still be branded and felled by the police: Ironically killed by guns we pay with our taxes to keep us safe and secure our future,” he adds, his voice rising with anger, eyes fixed on a makeshift door as he occasionally clutches at the butt of a gun tucked into the waistband of his trousers.

The execution of the seven is among the over 500 deaths of youngsters in Nairobi's slum areas in the last two years in what is now infamously known as “ghetto statistics”.

Why police must never be judge, jury and executioner

Eight suspected robbers gunned down in Industrial Area, weapons recovered

We didn’t kill innocent victims, say police

We reveal the story of ghetto statistics alongside other official and both documented and undocumented disturbing trends of police executions across the country as compiled by various human rights groups since the Jubilee regime came to power.

The data in our possession is extracted from multiple human rights organisation reports, including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) and Haki Africa.

It shows there have been 612 cases of extrajudicial killings and about 1,300 cases of enforced disappearances during Jubilee’s first term.

These are cases documented after the families of victims complained to the groups and the respective rights bodies went ahead to investigate the cases, got accounts from victims and their families and even carried out postmortems on some of the bodies. The data on executed and missing persons in the last four years was meticulously compiled.

However, these statistics don't include those of the ghettos (slums), also known as informal settlements, where families have given up filing complaints and only pick up the bodies of their executed relatives and bury them without postmortem or officially recording the deaths.

“We only keep the memories and count the numbers of those downed. But, unfortunately, the majority of our fellow citizens think we deserve summary execution as our day in court to them is a waste of time. We have all been branded dogs,” Kariuki says.

This comes as Amnesty International has rated Kenya top in Africa for summarily executing its citizens.

Amnesty International’s 2016/17 report says that by October 2016, it documented 122 extrajudicial killings, but the number could be even higher as there were no official data on such cases.

A London-based human rights charity reveals in a report released on March 13 that Kenya National Police Service officers use extrajudicial killings as a matter of policy.

Privacy International’s report, entitled “Track, Capture, Kill: Inside Communications Surveillance and Counterterrorism in Kenya”, says the abuses are most rife in counterterrorism operations that further erode Kenyans’ already weak trust in the agencies responsible for protecting them.

Privacy International describes itself as investigators of “the secret world of government surveillance and expose the companies enabling it.

We litigate to ensure that surveillance is consistent with the rule of law. We advocate for strong national, regional, and international laws that protect privacy.

We conduct research to catalyse policy change. We raise awareness about technologies and laws that place privacy at risk, to ensure that the public is informed and engaged”.

In its report, Privacy International says, “Communications surveillance is being carried out by Kenyan state actors, essentially without oversight, outside of the procedures required by Kenyan laws”.

“Intercepted communications content and data are used to facilitate gross human rights abuses, to spy on, profile, locate, track – and ultimately arrest, torture, kill or disappear suspects,” it adds.

This happens despite constitutional guarantees of freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to a fair trial as fundamental rights of Kenyan citizens.

However, the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, which is responsible for policy, could not respond to our inquiries on whether they had a policy to run execution squads among national police officers in security operations and on why they are reluctant to reprimand or put individuals officers accused of operating outside the law to account.

Interior spokesperson Mwenda Njoka, despite being briefed and instructing us to email the questions, did not respond for a week, despite many assurances that he would reply.

In Kenya any time there is a contemporary security challenge, the authorities have been quick to establish new police units that carry out pervasive human rights violations, Abdullahi Boru, East Africa Researcher at Amnesty International, said.

“The highway robberies brought the Flying Squad, Mungiki came with the Kwe Kwe squad, and now terrorism has ATPU, all of which operate above the law, executing suspects and carrying out other violations. Instead of being reprimanded and taken to account they are mostly praised by the authorities. This explains why these cases of extrajudicial killings go on unabated,” Boru said.

“This undermines security sector reforms and complicates the security agencies’ ability to use communities in combat any form of crime. Human rights abuses by security agencies that are supposed to uphold the rule of law erode the public trust,” Boru added.

In its report “Death From Police Bullets from January to December 2015,” IMLU recorded 144 cases of summary executions. In Nairobi there were 66 executions, Machakos 14, Mombasa 11, with rest of the killings happening across other counties.

However, information we could not independently verify but followed through detailed multiple interviews with locals, victims and grassroots human rights defenders, indicated there were on average at least two deaths daily in slum areas, with higher death counts during weekends and holidays last year and unknown numbers of disappearances. The number adds up to about 730.

“Just in Mathare alone, a week barely ends without two to three incidences of summary executions. Interestingly, many rights organisations aren’t too enthusiastic to come out to document these cases. Even IPOA seems unmoved when it comes to following up on the cases, despite the identities of policemen committing these atrocities being known,” a source at Mathare Social Justice told the Star in an interview.

The organization said most of the killings are carried out by police from special crime divisions, not attached to respective police divisions, where they pick up and execute suspects of various crimes.

Our MSJ source lamented that documentation and follow-up of the cases was a tall order for them due to intimidation from police officers as well as failure by most national rights bodies to stand up in solidarity with grassroots activists.

“When we complain to the police divisions at times even the local police don’t know as the victims are never booked in the occurrence books. Where they know the culprits they tell us that the police executing the youths are their bosses sent from headquarters, making it difficult to follow-up and even hold these rogue police to account. They come back and taunt the locals as they mark their next targets,” the other added.

In 2015 IMLU documented 126 cases of summary executions by police and Kenya Wildlife Service officers; in 2014 there were 199 executions and 142 in 2013.

“The cases are rampant and on the increase, therefore our documentation isn't conclusive. But all cases we have reported point to a police [service] that has turned into an investigator, prosecutor, jury and executioner,” Hilda Nyatete, Imlu Programme Officer, Psychological Support, said.

“Police can only be justified to use firearms in self-defence and in protection of life, but in the cases we have received and documented, triggerhappy officers execute suspects at close range and even those who have surrendered. In violation of the constitutional right to life guarantee,” she added.

In “The Error of Fighting Terror with Terror”, published in September 2015, KNCHR reported over 120 cases of what it termed egregious human rights violations, including 25 extrajudicial killings and eight enforced disappearances were recorded between 2014-2015 in Mombasa, Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir.

There were also 31 cases of missing persons and seven deaths that the Commission was investigating, saying the violations were widespread, systematic and coordinated.

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