By Mbarak Abucheri
Human right organizations has urged Kenyan government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate and bring to justice all those suspected of criminal responsibility for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.
The call was made by 13 Kenyan and global human rights organizations yesterday as they marked the International Day of the enforced disappearances and killings in Nairobi.
Kenyan and global human rights organizations have documented more than 300 cases of individuals who have gone missing while in the hands of security agencies since 2009. Some of the victims were later found killed and dumped in miserable situations.
Executive Director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Peter Kiama said enforced disappearances have become a widespread practice, and a dark stain on the fabric of law enforcement in Kenya that can only be sustainably addressed by bringing to account those suspected of responsibility through fair trials.
He added that fair trials cannot take place without prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the myriad cases of disappearances and executions.
“Just this month, the High Court in Nairobi found that a prominent human rights lawyer and two other men had been subjected to enforced disappearance and later executed by police. The bodies of Willie Kimani, who worked for International Justice Mission, his client Josphat Mwendwa and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, were found dumped in a river about 73 kilometres northwest of Nairobi in July,” document says.
Many of the enforced disappearances which have taken place in the context of operations against perceived members or sympathisers of the Somalia-based Islamist militant group, Al-Shabaab affected most to Muslims especially residents of North Eastern, Nairobi and Coast.
“While indeed Kenya faces a real security threat from Al-Shabaab, it must not resort to unlawful responses that amount to crimes under international law and violate human rights,” said Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.
“It should instead insist on strict respect for human rights and due process at all times, including in its security operations. This must begin with ensuring criminal accountability for both individual police officers and their superiors who knew or should have known of the enforced disappearances and killings and failed to take all necessary measures to prevent or repress them,” he said.
Kenya has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, but has yet to ratify it.
Country Director of Amnesty International Kenya, Justus Nyang’aya noted that enforced disappearance is a crime under international law. Kenya must take concrete steps towards ratifying the Convention without making any reservation so as to ensure that impunity does not prevail for this cruel human rights violation.
The human rights organizations yesterday held a public event at Strathmore University’s main auditorium in honour of victims of enforced disappearance and demanded justice, truth and reparation for them.
The human right defenders who gathered at Strathmore university yesterday include; Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Kenya Human Rights Commission, National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders – Kenya, Protection International, Amnesty International Kenya, Independent Medico-Legal Unit, Constitution & Reform Education Consortium (CRE-CO), Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, Africa Centre for Open Governance, International Justice Mission, International Commission of Jurists – Kenya, Legal Resources Foundation Trust and Usalama Reforms Forum among others.