by Ronald Njoroge
Nairobi 4 August 2023, Amnesty International Kenya, Kenya Medical Association, and the Law Society of Kenya are deeply concerned over the cases of police use of excess force in Kisumu and Kisii Counties during the Azimio la Umoja anti-government protests.
We are deeply concerned to note that preliminary findings conclude that there was indeed the use of excessive force by the police meted against protestors during the 19-21 July 2023 protests. The preliminary findings indicate that excessive force on demonstrators has been consistent since the anti-government protests began on 20 March 2023.
Between 28-30 July 2023, Amnesty International Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya, and the Kenya Medical Association visited Kisumu and Kisii Counties. We are saddened to report that preliminary investigations confirm that at least ten people were killed, most suffering bullet wounds and a few cases of blunt-force trauma. At least One hundred and seven cases of police assault were attended to in various health facilities but with 47 of those being gunshot wounds.
Initial reports indicate that police shot indiscriminately at unarmed protestors, including those who had surrendered or were running away from the police. In one incident, an unarmed protestor, who served as an eyewitness in an arson incident, was shot and killed by a police officer. The state should assure the safety of families and victims who are yet to report violations out of fear of intimidation or re-victimisation at police stations.
Just like in the protests held between March and July, some victims were bystanders and were not involved. Nonetheless, we reiterate that Kenyans have a right to demonstrate, picket and present petitions without suppression and/or interference from the Police. We call upon the Policing Oversight Authority to urgently conclude investigations into the reported cases of the use of excess force by the police in Kisumu and Kisii Counties.
“Victims and survivors of violent acts by police officers have a constitutional right to life and equal protection before the law. These violations must not go unresolved. Police officers found culpable of using excess force must face a court of law and answer to these charges alongside their commanding officers,” – said Irungu Houghton, Executive Director of Amnesty International Kenya.
Initial findings revealed an alarming pattern of the police deploying reckless and indiscriminate tactics, including detaining protesters beyond the stipulated period of 24 hours use of archaic laws, especially those contained in the now outdated Public Order Act charge protesters.
“We condemn the utter disregard of Constitutional provisions by the police on the rights of arrested persons as protected in Article 49. We demand that all investigating officers who arrested, held and presented accused persons beyond the statutory timelines be held accountable – said Eric Theuri, Chairperson Law Society of Kenya.”
We are concerned that emergency service providers, including health workers and journalists, were sometimes attacked and/or prevented from accessing medical facilities.
We strongly condemn attacks on medical facilities, including lobbing teargas in medical facilities, ambulances, and attacks on healthcare workers and journalists. We call on the state to develop guidelines on offering safe passage and protection for emergency service providers during protests. We cannot be a nation which attacks its doctors. – said Simon Kigondu, President of the Kenya Medical Association.
Reports on targeting Human Rights defenders and Social Justice Centers during protests are deeply saddening. Social Justice Centers belong to communities and are designed to serve and promote human rights. We call upon the police to substantively investigate cases of targeting, including the abduction of Human Rights defenders and guarantee the security of social justice centres and guarantee protection – said Irungu Houghton, Director of Amnesty International Kenya.
We call on the newly announced dialogue teams of Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza representatives to revisit the unlawful use of excessive force by the National Police Service and agree on actions that hold those in police command responsible.
A separate parliamentary commission of inquiry should be formed to investigate the instructions given to police officers across the affected counties, the use of non-uniformed and non-commissioned officers, names and locations of police officers hurt or killed, any failure of police officers to inform IPOA of any fatal exchanges or use of weapons and ascertain whether there was any disciplinary action taken against officers who have violated their standing orders.
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority should urgently complete their investigations for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to hold individual officers culpable and the commanding officers who gave them instructions. IPOA should facilitate securing Occurrence Book (OB) Numbers for victims and families who are yet to access this service.
The Inspector General of Police should issue a public assurance that his service will provide protection and guidelines on safe passage for emergency service providers, journalists, and human rights defenders. During protests, his officers will desist from operating from ambulances or embedding themselves in the media corps.
We call for the immediate release of all persons who have remained in custody for more than 24 hours or have not been charged according to their rights. Arrests must be carried out legally and not as a tool to punish or intimidate people. All those arrested have the right to know the charges being referred, legal representation, medical assistance and bail or bond within 24 hours.
Lastly, we call on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Police, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to investigate and prosecute those citizens and elected leaders using social media to urge Kenyans to commit acts of violence, hatred,