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POLICE ABUSE

Lobbies raise alarm over rising police torture

They use whips, batons, teargas and manhandle unarmed members of the public.

In Summary
  • Independent Medio-Legal Unit said between January and June, it recorded 41 cases of torture.
  • Kenya National Human Rights Commission said between March 15 and May 27 it recorded 42 cases of torture.
Mombasa residents scamper for safety as police enforce the nationwide curfew on Friday, March 27, 2020
BRUTALITY: Mombasa residents scamper for safety as police enforce the nationwide curfew on Friday, March 27, 2020
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Police are increasingly using torture to enforce the law despite such means being unlawful, two lobby groups have said.

The Independent Medio-Legal Unit said between January and June, it recorded 41 cases of torture by state agencies across the country including by the police.

This was a sharp increase of the figures recorded by the institution during the same period last year, which was 15.

The Kenya National Human Rights Commission said that between March 15 and May 27, it recorded 42 cases of torture by law enforcement officers including administration officials such as chiefs.

The lobbies say the Covid-19 pandemic has given police an opportunity for violence.

 

Acts of torture involving police using whips, batons, teargas and manhandling unarmed members of the public, even holding them by their genitals, have been widely reported in the media during the dusk-to-dawn curfew. Extrajudicial killings by the officers have also been reported.

A video emerged online last month showing a police officer grabbing a man by his genitals for allegedly resisting arrest. The man's pleading for mercy fell on deaf ears. 

Another cases this month happened in Bomet, where police officers tied a woman to a  motorbike and dragged he on a rough road. Mercy Cherono was said to be a suspect of burglary.

But police spokesman Charles Owino dismissed the statistics by the two entities as "work of activism..wanting to regard the police as being perfect."

Owino said he had not seen the reports by the two entities and that they should detail every person claiming to have been tortured to avoid condemning officers without justification.

"We cannot comment on activism. We must first see the list of those claimed to have been tortured and the circumstances because we will not be policemen forever. We don't want to breed impunity," Owino told the Star. 

 
 
 

He said some of the cases were being dealt with as per the law but insisted the reports of use of torture were unfounded. 

Thursday was the International Day of Support of Victims of Torture. 

The lobbies said the state should operationalise the laws that outlaw torture as well as inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement arms such as the police.

The lobbies want full operationalisation of the National Coroner’s Service Act 2017 and the Prevention of Torture Act 2017 as well as allocation of "adequate resources to the oversight mechanism and…monitoring and evaluation tool to assess the progress of implementation.”

Edited by Henry Makori