Voicing deep concern over the continuing pattern of extrajudicial executions in Kenya, United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government to halt police violence and ensure accountability for the perpetrators.
“The recent murder of a well-known lawyer and human rights defender is having a dramatic and detrimental impact on civil society, especially on those active in the field of human rights,” the experts noted in a statement issued late last week, stressing that “this heinous human rights violation should prompt the authorities to take concrete measures to put an end to police impunity.”
The experts’ call came after four police officers were charged with the murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and their driver; the latest high-profile case in a long list of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Kenya.
“The murder of Mr. Kimani, who was renowned for his work with the International Justice Mission, which fights police abuse of power […] is a dramatic loss for the human rights community in Kenya,” the experts underscored, adding that: “The fact that Mr. Kimani had been working on a police brutality case around the days he was killed is deeply troubling.”
The human rights experts further urged the Government of Kenya to speedily address the apparent structural and systemic motives behind police brutality, which should include, but not be limited to, providing adequate support and capacity to the Independent Police Oversight Authority.
Mr. Kimani had been representing Mr. Mwenda, who filed a complaint with Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority when a police officer shot at him at a traffic stop following an incident in April 2015. Mr. Mwenda was later accused of various offenses, which his lawyers believe have been fabricated charges to silence him. On 1 July 2016, Mr. Kimani, Mr. Mwenda and Mr. Muiruri were found in a river with apparent signs of torture, one week after they had been abducted by unidentified persons.
The experts also expressed grave concern that the disappearance, torture and executions of the three men have been directly related to Mr. Kimani’s legitimate work, as a lawyer and human rights defender, in the defence of Mr. Mwenda’s rights as a victim of excessive use of force by the police.
“It is vital for human rights defenders to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms free from intimidation or fear of reprisals; and for the society as a whole to live in a country respectful of the rule of law,” the UN independent experts concluded.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.