UN rights office condemns killing of Kenyan human rights lawyer

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

5 July 2016 – The United Nations human rights office today condemned the killing of Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josphat Mwenda, and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, on 23 June, in a context of persistent allegations of extrajudicial killings by police forces.

“It is imperative to throw full light on what happened and to establish all responsibilities related to these atrocious murders,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in a bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva.

Calling on the Kenyan authorities to strengthen efforts towards accountability, the spokesperson said the authorities should also take urgent measures to prevent extrajudicial executions and police brutality and other serious violations.

“These are steps the Kenya authorities have committed to, including in last year’s Universal Periodic Review, and they are essential if trust is to be restored before elections take place next year. We also call on the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate freely and without fear,” Mr. Colville said.

According to reports, the three men disappeared after Mr. Kimani and Mr. Mwenda attended court in Mavoko, some 30 kilometres east of Nairobi, in a case involving an officer from the Administration Police.

Mr. Mwenda had been shot and injured by the police officer in April 2015, and then charged with fictitious crimes, the spokesperson said. Willie Kimani, who had been working with a non-governmental organization, International Justice Mission, had been assisting Mr. Mwenda with his case. Mr. Mwenda had reportedly been receiving intimidation and threats in the run-up to the hearing.

The two men and their driver were allegedly briefly detained inside a container in a police compound before being executed. On 30 June, their bodies, which reportedly showed signs of torture, were found in a river to the north-east of Nairobi, Mr. Colville said.

“Kenya’s Attorney General has stated that no effort will be spared to identify those responsible for the killings, and the Inspector General of Police announced that a thorough investigation would be conducted,” the spokesperson said, adding that three police officers have been arrested so far.

A “welcome development” was the pledge by the Attorney General that the Prevention of Torture bill would be presented in Parliament within 28 days, Mr. Colville said.

According to some non-governmental sources, as many as 53 people may have been summarily executed by police forces between January and April 2016. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission also documented 25 cases of extrajudicial killings and 81 cases of “enforced disappearances” by police and other security agencies in the context of the counter terrorism operations between 2013 and 2015.

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