Baby Pendo: Senior police officers to be charged with murder
Senior police officers are facing trial over the murder of Baby Samantha Pendo—the first case of crimes against humanity charged under Kenyan domestic law.
Pendo, a six-month-old infant, died on August 10, 2017, after police in Kisumu teargassed and bludgeoned her head with a club.
The Director of Public Prosecution on October 28, 2022, said his decision took a long time because of the “complexity of the offenses, investigation, and vulnerability of witnesses and victims”.
DPP Noordin Haji said: “I’m satisfied that there is evidence to support the following charges under the International Crimes Act, No. 16 of 2018; a) murder as a crime against humanity, (b) rape as a crime against humanity and (c) torture as a crime against humanity.”
The head of the prosecution did not divulge the identities of the senior police officers. But he left a hint, saying, “the concept of superior/command responsibility must be explored”.
It will be the first time in Kenya that this concept is applied. This principle allows commanders to be held criminally liable for crimes committed by their subordinates. This applies if the commander was in a position to prevent crimes committed by forces under their effective control and knew the crime would be committed.
However, a 2018 inquest into Pendo’s death found five senior officers culpable. They are Chief Inspector John Thiringi, Inspector Lina Kogey, Senior Superintendent Benjamin Kipkosgey Koima, Senior Superintendent Christopher Mutune Maweu, and Commissioner of Police Titus Yoma. It’s yet to be seen if these cops, some retired, are the ones on DPP’s radar.
Kenyans and human rights defenders and institutions hailed the DPP’s move.
“Amnesty International welcomes this decisive action by DPP,” the group said on Twitter, and noted the loss to Pendo’s parents is “unbearable” and “the nation owes them justice”.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said the decision was “groundbreaking” and a “positive step towards justice and accountability for survivors and families of victims”.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights documented 94 deaths, 201 cases of sexual violence, and over 300 injuries – the majority of which were attributed to security forces—during the 2017 polls.
DPP Haji said these attacks “were committed by or under the authority of senior national police officers, who…committed various offenses such as torture, rape, and sexual violence”.
If the trial proceeds, it will also be the first criminal prosecution of electoral-related sexual violence.
Missing Voices acknowledges the DPP’s intention to charge the suspect. We hope this process will bring justice and closure to Pendo’s family.