Azimio la Umoja coalition leader Raila Odinga addressing supporters during one of their political rallies. PHOTO/UGC
By DAVE CHENGO
Police have shot dead more than 30 protestors since Azimio la Umoja coalition launched protests against the government in March Amnesty International Kenya says.
The rights body while condemning what it termed as the continued use of unlawful force, including lethal force against protestors that it said led to increased deaths and injuries of both adults and children.
“Since the March 2023 protests, Amnesty has noted at least 30 cases of police killings of protesters. They include March 20th and 27th protests (12 killings), Saba Saba protest (12 killings) and yesterday’s July 19th (6 killings). The deaths have been attributed to suffocation from tear gas and lethal shootings,” the human rights lobby said.
It added that preliminary investigations have revealed that the police have used beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannons, and other serious rights violations to police the protests.
“We call for an immediate stop to violent policing and criminalising of protests by the state. We demand urgent investigations and prosecution of police officers and their commanders for excessive use of force by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions,” a statement from Amnesty International Kenya said .
They asked the Inspector General of the Police, Japhet Koome and the Cabinet Secretary of Interior and Administration of National Government, Kithure Kindiki, to take practical steps to guarantee the right of everyone to peaceful assembly and protest.
“We directly call on the National Police Service to facilitate all protests and adopt de-escalation tactics at all times when engaging protestors,” the lobby added.
Saying the government has a duty to protect protestors from intimidation and suppression, Amnesty International Kenya asked for the arrest of political leaders urging the police to shoot and/or arbitrarily arrest protestors and those brandishing private firearms must also be arrested.
It also called on the government to ensure safe movement for people wishing to use routes manned by the police to access other essential services, including emergency health care and food.
They also said that they are concerned about the increasing use of non-uniformed officers to effect arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors contrary to Criminal Procedure Code and Police Standing Orders.
“For transparency and accountability, police officers must be identifiable by uniform or number badges to avoid abuse of power and other violations,” the statement noted.
The human rights body said arrests must be carried out legally and not as a tool to punish or intimidate people adding all those arrested have the right to know the charges being referred, have legal representation, get medical assistance and bail or bond within 24 hours.
“We also call on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Police, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to investigate and prosecute those citizens and elected leaders using social media to urge Kenyans to commit acts of violence, hatred and discrimination,” they concluded.