Kenya launches investigation into bodies found in River Yala

"Some of the bodies were tied with ropes, others had deep cuts and others had polythene bags on the heads..."~Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid

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Kenyan police said Wednesday they have launched an investigation after badly decomposed bodies, some of which bore signs of torture, were found in a river. A Kenyan rights group said it counted 21 unidentified bodies; all men in a hospital morgue that workers there said had been retrieved from the River Yala in a scenic area of western Kenya.

“Some of the bodies were tied with ropes, others had deep cuts and others had polythene bags on the heads,” Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said in a statement after the visit on Monday.

“The mortuary attendant informed us that at least 10 bodies were found in individual sacks which were properly stitched like parcels.”

Khalid also said on the same day Haki Africa’s team visited the Yala morgue, they spotted two bodies floating in the river, trapped in the rapids.

Morgue officials told the activists they keep unclaimed corpses for 90 days before burying them — suggesting the bodies may have been found over the past three months.

But police said Wednesday that only 19 cases of bodies being found dumped in the Yala had been reported over the past two years. 

“This number represents a cumulative body count over the stated period contrary to media reports insinuating all the incidences are a recent occurrence,” police spokesman Bruno Shioso said in a statement. 

Shioso said a team of investigators has been assigned to the case but that despite repeated appeals, no-one has claimed the bodies. 

“To speed up the identification of the victims… a special forensic investigation team from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters has been dispatched to the scene,” he added. 

Cases of enforced disappearances, sometimes blamed on the police and security services are not uncommon in the East African country, and incidents of extrajudicial killings are also rife. 

Missing Voices, a campaign group focused on extrajudicial killings in Kenya, says there has been 1,160 deaths at the hands of police since it began collecting data in 2017, and 269 enforced disappearances. 

Haki Africa said the dumping of the bodies was “disturbing” and called for police in the area to be investigated “to ascertain whether or not there was involvement of the police in the killings”. 

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