When cops, public become jurors and executioners, it is jungle law

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial in Article 50 (2)

In Summary

• This week, police shot dead a suspect and the public supported the killing, and even congratulated the cops.

•  However, the law of Kenya demands that any suspect who is accused of a crime should be investigated, arrested and charged.

Police killings
Police killings
Image: OZONE

This week, police in Mombasa shot and killed a wanted youth gang member by the name Dula.

Police said Dula was a member of the criminal underworld and was wanted for various crimes, including robbery with violence. On the day he was killed, Dula was said to have been with a friend who escaped. Haki Africa and partner organisation Sisters for Justice (S4J) were present during the post-mortem, which revealed Dula was shot at least six times at close range. Five of the bullets exited the body. One remained inside and was founded during the post-mortem. It was handed over to the Independent Police Oversight Authority) for investigations.

In the public, the people supported the killing. As soon as news broke out, most people took to social media to congratulate the police. The majority urged the police to continue in the same vein and even eliminate more gang members. As a matter of fact, during that same week, Haki Africa received reports that the mob in Kisauni lynched another suspect, beating him to death. They claimed the suspect was among those who had attacked and injured several people the previous night with pangas and knives.

The rule of law is a legal principle that demands strict adherence and fidelity to the law. It requires that irrespective of the emotional and social feelings of society, the law will rule and will be followed to the letter. It stresses that no matter how serious a crime an individual may have committed, they will always get a fair hearing and considered innocent until proven guilty by the courts.

The law of Kenya demands that any suspect who is accused of a crime should be investigated, arrested and charged. The court will then consider the evidence adduced before it and if found guilty, pass punishment.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial in Article 50 (2). The Article states, “Every accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right (a) to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven…and (d) to a public trial before a court established under this Constitution”. It is, therefore, unconstitutional, for any person, state or non-state, police or civilian, to kill a suspect and deny them the chance to face trial.

According to the Constitution, the only competent authority to determine guilt or otherwise is a court of law. Not police, not the public.

When police and the public take the law into their own hands, they abuse the rule of law and become the jurors and executioners at the same time. The primary responsibility of police is to investigate and arrest. Not to kill. Police can only justly killing when their own or another person’s life is in danger. Police are not supposed to kill because and individual is a suspect or is accused of gross crimes. When they do so, they themselves go against the law and must be held accountable for breaking it.

The public, at the same time, has a duty to report crime and may by extension execute a citizen’s arrest to apprehend a suspect and present them to the police for prosecution. When citizens engage in mob lynching, they do so against the law and are no different from criminals who attack, injure and kill others. What citizens need to know is that laws are there for a reason. The persons being accused must be given a fair hearing. If everyone is allowed to pass judgment on others and act based on their judgment, then there would be no social order and the world would turn chaotic.

It is, therefore, imperative that police and public uphold the rule of law. When Haki Africa, Sisters for Justice (S4J) and other human rights organisations call for suspects to be apprehended and not killed by police or public, it doesn’t mean that we condone or support the criminal acts of suspects. It simply means we must respect our own Constitution and the laws of the land. Failure to respect and abide by that will lead to disastrous consequences, including jungle law, which will be detrimental to us all.