Pangani Police Station leads with the highest number of police killings in Kenya. Missing Voices documented 30 cases of police killings that are reportedly associated with Pangani Police Station. In 2021, every month, with the exception of June, officers from Pangani are accused of murder.”
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Missing Voices is a coalition of 15 Civil Society Organizations that aim to end extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya. Since its inception in August 2018, Missing Voices has documented and verified data on police killings and enforced disappearances (EDs) and held several campaigns to disseminate our research while pushing the general public to report incidents of police misconduct. These activities are done in partnership with stakeholders with the mission to get justice for victims and survivors and promote police accountability.
In 2021, Missing Voices documented 219 cases of police killings and enforced disappearances. Out of these, 187 cases were of police killings, and 32 of enforced disappearances. Of the 32 cases of EDs, two of the victims were later found alive after campaigns by civil society organizations. Originally there were 36 cases of enforced disappearances; four of these were found dead more than 24 hours after disappearing in police custody, two were returned alive and 30 remain missing. These 219 cases of police killings and enforced disappearances resulted from 161 separate incidents.
Pangani Police Station leads with the highest number of police killings in Kenya. Missing Voices documented 30 cases of police killings that are reportedly associated with Pangani Police Station. In 2021, every month, with the exception of June, officers from Pangani are accused of murder.
For the last three years, during which Missing Voices has actively tracked the data, police have killed more than 500 people. In 2019, Missing Voice documented 145 cases of police killings. 168 people were killed or disappeared in police custody in 2020.
In this report we are launching today, the Missing Voices team spoke to survivors who lost their sons to police killings and are in the process of seeking justice in court. All of their cases were taken back to the inquest stage because of “lack of evidence”, despite the fact that they had witness statements, post-mortem reports and the police officers were identified.
All of the accused officers continued operating in the same communities and used unlawful tactics to throw out or weaken the cases. They threatened witnesses and intimidated families – in Stella’s case, one of the witnesses was killed.
None of the mothers could articulate why their cases were taken back to the inquest stage and seeking answers from officials proved fruitless.
Despite the fact that we are seeing more arrests of police officers involved in such killings, the criminal justice system is slow in dispensing justice, but a gap in law or its application has a significant bearing on the case’s outcome.
For instance, poor implementation of the victim and witness protection Acts prevents them from testifying out of fear of being targeted.
The Witness Protection Act envisages that a witness will need protection once the trial commences formally upon the Director of Public Prosecution’s determination that the person is a witness and thus needs protection. But in cases where a state agency is involved in a crime, for instance, a police killing, the witness requires protection before the case starts.
It has also been noted that there exists a gap where police officers falsely charge a victim of police misconduct, and the Witness Protection Agency cannot protect a suspect.
A case in point is Josephat Mwenda who, despite needing witness protection, was unable to receive it because he was already facing a criminal charge in court, he was killed by police two months later.
Court delays weaken cases because most witnesses recall the incident from memory; the longer the cases take, the more witnesses forget the critical aspects of the case-location, time, and the exact sequence of the incident. The defense could use the discrepancy in witnesses’ recollection to undermine the case. Further, since many police officers serve within the same community, families, and witnesses in the case are insecure and vulnerable to threats and even inducements.
The longer the case drags in court, the harder the healing processes for victims and survivors whose wounds are continuously reopened with every court date. Many of the victims and survivors of police killings and enforced disappearances are people from modest economic backgrounds; the constant court adjournments and postponements can deplete their already limited resources.
All these combined, defeat the cause of justice, and its net result is that victims’ families, survivors of police killings, and enforced disappearances, grow cynical of criminal justice.
“Justice delayed is justice denied” William E. Gladstone.
A case illustrating delayed justice is the Mavoko 3 case. June 23, 2022 will be the sixth anniversary of the disappearance and murder of International Justice Mission (IJM) lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM’s client Josephat Mwenda, and trusted taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Their badly mutilated bodies were found a week after they were arrested and murdered at River Athi in Ol Donyo Sabuk.
The progress of the Mavoko 3 case has been incredibly slow despite it being a high-profile case with tons of media coverage. Since its commencement in November 2016, 44 prosecution witnesses have testified, but the defence has employed numerous tactics to delay the case. Besides the delays because COVID 19 pandemic, this case has been postponed and adjourned at least 15 times. These adjournments breed uncertainty at best and foreboding at worst.
What is the fate of lesser-known cases? What does justice for ordinary Kenyans look like?
Fellow Kenyans, such is the journey of seeking justice for police misconduct in Kenya. As we launch this report today we are demanding the following;
- Enact a law on enforced disappearances or amend existing legislation to criminalize enforced disappearances. The law should include recourse and reparations for victims and their families.
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
- Allocate sufficient budget to the Witness Protection Agency to adequately protect witnesses and families of persons who have been forcefully disappeared.
- Expedite cases on police killings and enforced disappearances in court and work with the judiciary to provide a realistic timeline for when they will be resolved.
- Develop a habeas corpus guideline in collaboration with state oversight agencies, the judiciary, and civil society organizations.
- Develop ODPP guidelines on the investigation of enforced disappearances.