RELIGION VS JUSTICE

Belief that postmortem is haram impedes extrajudicial killing probes, says DPP Haji

Muslims believe a dead person always hears everything that happens to them.

In Summary
  • Muslims believe a dead person always hears everything that happens to them and needs to rest in peace.
  • Religious leaders need to help us clear the confusion. Is it haram? poses Haji.
DPP Noordin Haji at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa on Wednesday.
FRUSTRATED DPP Noordin Haji at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa on Wednesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

In Islam, postmortem is considered haram.

This becomes an impediment when police are investigating extrajudicial killings, DPP Noordin Haji said.   

The Director of Public Prosecutions on Wednesday said Muslim scholars need to help demystify the issue of postmortem.

 

“It is akin to disturbing the departed,” explained Sheikh Juma Ngao, the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council chairman.

Ngao on Thursday told the Star postmortem is not allowed in Islam except in cases of emergencies or when investigations are involved.

They believe a dead person always hears everything that happens to them.

“So when you cut open their body, they feel everything and they are not happy. They were called by Allah and they need to go to Him in full just as they were created in full,” Ngao said on the phone.

He said in cases of legal investigations a postmortem is allowed but only with the family's permission.

 

On Wednesday, Haji said the families of the four people whose bodies were picked from Tsavo West National Park and taken to Makindu Subcounty Hospital last Saturday may never know who killed them because they rejected postmortems.

“Religious leaders need to help us clear the confusion. Is it haram?” Haji said.

He was speaking during the Criminal Justice Accountability Conference organised by Haki Africa at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel.

“It makes it very difficult for us to investigate and bring to book culprits,” Haji said.

Ngao said in the case of the Kwale bodies, the families were at liberty to allow or reject postmortems. “You cannot force them to accept. If they refuse, it is their right,” said Sheikh Ngao.

The families of Juma Said Sarai, Khalfan Suleiman Linuku, Abdalla Nassir Gatana and Usama Nassir buried their bodies in Bongwe, Kwale county, on Monday.

The four bodies were taken to Makindu Subcounty Hospital by police between last December and January.

Haki Africa rapid response officer Mathias Shipeta said it was unfortunate that the families had rejected postmortems, but said it was their right. “This is not the first time. Haki Africa always encounters obstacles when religious beliefs about postmortems come into play,” Shipeta said.

He said sometimes the evidence is so overwhelming that it just has to be augmented by a postmortem report for a strong case to get a conviction.

“In some cases, we only need to get the bullet from the body in cases of extrajudicial killings so that ballistics examination is done to nab the officer who pulled the trigger," Shipeta said.

“But then the family refuses to have a postmortem done.”

He said it was time to have a conversation about the importance of postmortem in the pursuit of justice.

“In many cases, the family of a victim of extrajudicial killing always says 'we leave it to God. Whatever happens now will not bring our son back to life. Let it go’,” Shipeta said.

He said the Independent Policing Oversight Authority has also complained to them after trying to get Haki Africa to talk Muslim families into allowing a postmortem.

“Maybe it is time to have this conversation between Muslim leaders, scholars, investigators and the Muslim faithful,” Shipeta said.

He warned that with no postmortem, it is easy for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings to go scot-free and continue the vice unabated.

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya

Haki Africa director Yusuf Abubakar, DPP Noordin Haji and High Court judge Eric Ogolla at Sariva Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa on Wednesday.
NEED FOR DISCUSSION Haki Africa director Yusuf Abubakar, DPP Noordin Haji and High Court judge Eric Ogolla at Sariva Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa on Wednesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI