HRW report puts Kenya on the spot over human rights abuses

Documented cases enforced disappearances and unexplained deaths involved people who had been seen in police custody. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Kenyan officials failed to respect human rights in many instances last year, a monitoring group charged on Thursday in its annual global report.

“Respect for human rights in Kenya remained precarious in 2016, with authorities failing to adequately investigate a range of abuses across the country and undermining basic rights to free expression and association,” Human Rights Watch said.

The New York-based NGO pointed specifically to 32 cases of “enforced disappearances” and 11 “unexplained deaths” of individuals in Kenya with alleged links to Al-Shabaab.

These persons were last seen in state custody in Nairobi and northeastern Kenya, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.


The Kenya section of its 687-page world survey also cited reports received by the Commission on Administrative Justice regarding at least 25,000 killings by police across the country in the past three years.

“Kenyan authorities have very rarely investigated the killings or held anyone to account,” HRW said.

The group expressed concern about the ability of Kenya’s police to respond effectively and lawfully to violence that could occur before, during or after the elections scheduled for August.

In addition, “questions remain over the credibility and competence of the Judiciary to arbitrate electoral disputes fairly,” HRW said.


The collapse last year of the final International Criminal Court case related to the 2007-2008 post-election violence “devastated victims’ hopes for justice,” the report added.

“National authorities made no progress to address these crimes,” HRW observed in regard to the thousands of killings and rapes that occurred nine years ago.

The government has not kept its promise to establish a restorative justice fund for survivors of historical injustices, including the post-election violence, HRW noted.

Some positive developments did occur in Kenya last year, the report acknowledged.


Four police officers were charged with the murders in July of a human rights lawyer, his client and their cab driver, HRW noted.

It also cited enactment in May of the Climate Change Law.

“If rigorously implemented,” the measure will improve governance of national and local policies on climate change, the report said.

Climate change, along with industrial development in neighbouring Ethiopia, has produced a drop in water levels in Lake Turkana, threatening the livelihoods of some 300,000 indigenous people in Turkana County, HRW warned.

“But the Kenyan government has failed to raise this issue with Ethiopia,” the report said.



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