Kenya: Investigate police crackdown against protesters
Yesterday’s brutal crackdown by Kenyan police against protesters must be urgently and impartially investigated, said Amnesty International.
Police descended on a crowd of largely peaceful protesters hitting many of them with batons, lobbing tear gas at them and spraying them with water cannons. In one video widely shared on social media, three policemen were seen kicking and beating a protester after he had collapsed by the roadside. Some media reports say the individual later died of his injuries.
“The brutal beatings by police yesterday amount to arbitrary and abusive use of force, which is illegal under Kenyan, regional and international law,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“The Independent Police Oversight Authority must quickly launch a thorough investigation into this blatant violation of human rights. Police officers suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force, including those with command responsibility, must be prosecuted in fair proceedings. It is essential to ensure that the police are held accountable for excessive use of force and to send a strong signal that such violations have no place in Kenya.”
The protest was organised by the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has vowed to lead protests outside the headquarters of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) every Monday until the current commissioners are dismissed. They accuse the commissioners of bias towards the ruling Jubilee alliance, a charge the commissioners deny.
“The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful assembly and must not prevent people from enjoying their guaranteed rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
The Constitution of Kenya protects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Article 37 provides that “every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions to public authorities.”
The National Police Service Act 2011 provides that police officers should perform their functions through non-violent means. In the circumstance that they are constrained to use force, the force should be necessary and proportional to the objective to be achieved, the seriousness of the offence, and the resistance of the person against whom it is used.
International law and standards on the use of force by police stipulate that any use of force by police must only be what is strictly necessary and proportionate for the performance of their duty, and that arbitrary or abusive use of force by police must be treated as a criminal offence.
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