•Enforced disappearance is a situation where individuals are captured or abducted mostly by government security agents and held at unknown places. This is a tactic used by a government or her agents to create fear, insecurity and terror to achieve different motives. It is the worst form of fundamental human rights abuses.
•In 2021, IPOA documented 169 killings and 28 enforced disappearances both attributed to National Police Service. In their annual report, Missing Voices,a human rights coalition made up of civil society groups reveals that police killed 187 people and disappeared 32 others in 2021.
The new regime must implement the previous senate’s report on police killings and enforced disappearances
BY MISSING VOICES REPORTER
TODAY the world marks the international day of the victims of enforced disappearances. It takes place annually on August 30.What a day!
In October 2021,the last senate’s standing committee on justice, legal affairs and human rights released a disturbing report on the inquiry into extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.
What is Enforced Disappearance? Enforced disappearance is a situation where individuals are captured or abducted mostly by government security agents and held at unknown places. This is a tactic used by a govern-mentor or her agents to create fear, insecurity and terror to achieve different motives. It is the worst form of fundament human rights abuses.
The report released in October 2021,calls for immediate implementation of several recommendations that include operationalisation of various key Acts that were enacted by the national parliament several years ago.
The Acts include the National Coroner’s Service Act and the Prevention of Torture Act both enacted in 2017.
The Coroner’s Service Act once operational will ensure independent investigation of deaths without police interference or other interested parties.
It will facilitate proper collection of forensic evidence from the scene of crime to avoid contamination, independently verify the cause of deaths and increase chances of successful resolution of criminal cases including successful prosecution of the offender.
The Protection against Torture Acts envisages protection against inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment and provision of repatriation to victims.
The committee’s recommendations were informed by it’s findings after submissions by several stakeholders in the criminal justice system that include the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP),the office of the Attorney General,the Director of Criminal Investigations, Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA).
The committee also received submissions from the office of the Inspector General of police and civil society organisations including the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Amnesty International-Kenya,Kenya Human Rights Commission, International Justice Mission-Kenya among other non-profit organisations.
Civil society organisations in their submissions condemned police killings and enforced disappearances.
The Country Director of Amnesty international-Kenya Irungu Houghton, said the organisation was particularly alarmed by the sustained abuse, excessive use of force and extra judicial killings of Kenya’s young people.
“We require the Inspector General of police to provide police data on police Killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya.” He submitted.
In it’s findings for example the senate committee heard that the Independent Police Oversight Authority did not have powers to oversight other security agencies apart from the police.
These agencies including the Kenya Forest Service,Kenya Prisons Service,the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Coast Guard Services have powers to arrest and detain suspects therefore prone to human rights abuses against civilians.
The senate committee therefore recommended that parliament should within twelve months make amendments of various Acts including the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act,the Kenya Coast Guard Service Act among others to mandate IPOA exercise civilian oversight and investigate crimes committed by the above security agencies.
Findings revealed that despite Kenya signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,it is yet to ratify it. “The existing legal frameworks on enforced disappearances therefore are not aligned with international human rights standards.” Reads part of the report.
On the part of Enforced Disappearances,the committee directed the Attorney General to initiate within two months the process of ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in accordance with section Seven of the Treaty Making and Ratification Act.
The Attorney General was also required within two months to initiate the establishment of a multi-agency taskforce comprising of representatives from the National Police Service, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, National Police Service Commission,Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and National Commission on Administration of Justice.
The task-force that will also comprise the Independent Police Oversight Authority will be required to ensure better coordination between the various agencies responsible for addressing extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
In what will probably make IPOA more independent and not just a spectator in the criminal justice system is the recommendation to make the agency the primary investigator of crimes alleged to have been committed by police officers.
In the current framework,there is duplicity of investigative mandate between IPOA and the DCI.
IPOA in the submission to the committee said police deny the agency necessary documents and reports in relation to crimes committed by police.
The agency also cited among other challenges the lack of effective measures to protect witnesses before cases are admitted in courts. This, IPOA said leads to withdrawal of witnesses from the investigations process.
The Attorney General called on recruitment of competent staff and their continuous training by ODPP and IPOA to ensure successful investigations and prosecution of cases of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances to increase the chances of compensation.
“This is because the Victim Protection Board can only compensate families of a victim of extra judicial killing and enforced disappearance based on the actual conviction of an accused person in a criminal case.” The AG said in the submission to the Senate’s committee on April 21,2021.
In 2021,IPOA documented 169 killings and 28 enforced disappearances both attributed to police. In their annual report,Missing Voices,a human rights coalition made up of civil society groups in Kenya police killed 187 people and disappeared 32 others in 2021.
It is my hope that various agencies including the office of the Attorney General and the national parliament tasked with implementation of the report by the senate committee on justice, legal affairs and human rights will not sleep on the job for too long once again.
I am optimistic that parents of victims and survivors of police killings and enforced disappearances will find peace if the recommendations are implemented within the committee’s stipulated time frames.
The writer is a crime journalist with passion for protection of human rights