Amnesty International Kenya condemns the use of force by police against protestors

The organization has called for an immediate stop to violent policing and criminalizing of protests by the state

A suspected demonstrator is apprehended by Kenyan police during confrontations between authorities and supporters of the Kenyan opposition during anti-government protests in Nairobi on July 19, 2023. – Kenya braced on July 19, 2023 for a new round of protests despite the government warning it would not tolerate further unrest after earlier demonstrations turned violent with more than a dozen people killed. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

Amnesty International has raised concern about the use of non-uniformed police in the arrest of protestors during anti-government protests in Kenya.

Through a statement published on Thursday, July 20th, 2023, the body pointed out that officers must be in uniform to avoid abuse of power and other violations.

“Amnesty International Kenya has condemned the continued use of force against protestors. The continued attacks, use of excessive, unnecessary and unlawful force, including lethal force, is leading to increased deaths and injuries of both adults and children,” the statement read.

Through its Executive Director Irungu Houghton, Amnesty International stated that since the March 2023 protests, the body has noted at least 30 cases of police killings of protesters. They include March 20th and 27th protests (12 killings), Saba Saba protest (12 killings) and July 19th (6 killings) further noting that the deaths have been attributed to suffocation from tear gas and lethal shootings. 

“Preliminary investigations have revealed that the police have used beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannons, and other serious rights violations to police the protests,” the Executive Director noted.  

The organization has called for an immediate stop to violent policing and criminalizing of protests by the state. They further demanded urgent investigations and prosecution of police officers and their commanders for excessive use of force by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Amnesty International has also urged the National Police Service to facilitate all protests and adopt de-escalation tactics at all times when engaging protestors. In addition, the organization has called on the state to ensure safe movement for people wishing to use routes manned by the police to access other essential services, including emergency health care and food. 

“We are concerned about the increasing use of non-uniformed officers to effect arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors contrary to Criminal Procedure Code and Police Standing Orders. For transparency and accountability, police officers must be identifiable by uniform or number badges to avoid abuse of power and other violations,”  the statement added.

“We also call on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Police, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to investigate and prosecute those citizens and elected leaders using social media to urge Kenyans to commit acts of violence, hatred and discrimination,” said Irungu.

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