Police Reforms Must Be Made in Kenya Before National Elections in March

Press Release
January 30, 2013

Police Reforms Must Be Made in Kenya Before National Elections in March

New Report Documents Ongoing Abuses and Failure of Police Reforms

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(New York) – Amnesty International is calling on Kenyan authorities to take urgent steps to fulfill the ambitious agenda of promised police reforms before the national elections on March 4.

Violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections claimed 1,300 lives. Reforms were passed, but in a new report, Police Reform in Kenya: 'A Drop in the Ocean,' Amnesty International found that few new laws on policing have actually been implemented, raising concerns about security in the upcoming elections.

"With five weeks to go until the elections, the Kenyan authorities must show the political will and take urgent measures to prevent human rights abuses during the election period," said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's deputy Africa program director.

The report documents continued human rights violations by the police, despite ongoing reform, including arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment. One example details the beating of a Somali journalist on Dec. 10, 2011 as he was returning from work.

"I was surrounded by 20-30 of them," said the journalist, who wished to remain unnamed. "They grabbed me by the neck and threw me to the ground and started beating me with their guns. I tried to ask them why and tried to explain that I was a journalist. But they kept beating me. Then they took my wallet, which had $200 (US) in it and business cards. After 15 minutes, I couldn't even breathe, I couldn't stand."

He was finally let go.

The police have also failed to protect people from human rights abuses in the Tana Delta, where 200 people have been killed and 112,000 displaced since August 2012. Additionally, there has been little movement towards bringing the police to account either collectively or individually for these human rights violations.

The report urges the authorities to take immediate steps to improve capacity so that security officials are able to prevent abuses, and ensure that they themselves refrain from human rights violations during the elections.

Amnesty International urges the National Police Service Commission to publish a code of conduct for the police during the election period. The Commission must also ensure all law enforcement officials receive training ahead of polls opening, including force limitation, and non-violent tactics.

"The authorities should ensure there is a clear strategy for how the elections will be policed," said Jackson. "It should include commitments to the public on how the police will prevent human rights abuses and keep them safe."

After the elections, the newly inaugurated government should act swiftly to demonstrate its commitment to police reform, and address shortcomings which underpin impunity for police abuses. This must include ensuring that all police bodies, including those responsible for standards, have the necessary funds to carry out their vital work.

"By taking immediate steps ahead of the March 2013 elections, and by prioritizing the implementation of reform once voting is over, the Government of Kenya can finally end the impunity which the police have enjoyed for far too long," said Jackson. "It must not miss this opportunity."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.