Breaking News 2008

 

Alarm over shoot-to-kill order

Story by KEVIN J. KELLEY and WALTER MENYA

Publication Date: 1/15/2008

The Government should immediately order the police to halt what is being described as a “shoot-to-kill” policy, a US human rights group has said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on the Government to lift its ban on opposition demonstrations planned for this week. Noting that Kenyan authorities have prohibited live broadcasts, the organisation further urged the Government to end “unnecessary restrictions on media freedom.”

Human Rights Watch cites unnamed police sources and independent observers as charging that a “shoot-to-kill” policy is in effect.

Credible reports

The monitoring group says it has received credible reports of police shooting to death dozens of demonstrators in Kisumu on December 31.

Unarmed by-standers have also been shot in Kibera and Mathare, Human Rights Watch says, citing witness accounts.

Human rights chief Maina Kiai at Nyanza Provincial Hospital mortuary in Kisumu yesterday where victims of electoral violence are preserved. Photo/JACOB OWITI

“Many of us are unhappy with what we are being asked to do,” the group says it was told by a police source unwilling to be identified.

“This ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy is illegal, and it is not right. We have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters out there.” In a statement issued in Nairobi on Sunday, the rights group’s acting Africa director, Ms Georgette Gagnon, said the Government should make it very clear that police would be held to account for using lethal force against people for expressing political views.

“The right to peaceful assembly is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy,” Ms Gagnon said.

In Kisumu, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has also called on police commissioner Hussein Ali to order his officers not to use live ammunition on protesters.

Commission chairman Maina Kiai also termed the ban on political rallies illegal and called on the Government to lift it.

He said the ban on the rallies was a violation of the rights of Kenyans to assembly.

Challenge police

“The law is clear that police cannot place a blanket ban on political rallies unless there are imminent and palpable threats to State security.

“The more police ban these rallies the higher the likelihood of people resorting to illegalities,” he said.

“The police commissioner should explain to Kenyans why they had to use live bullets on protesters, including children when tear gas would have done the job,” he said.

Mr Kiai was addressing journalists after visiting Nyanza Provincial General Hospital where majority of those injured in the skirmishes are admitted.

The rights chief was also taken around the mortuary where bodies of those killed are.

The hospital medical superintendent, Dr Julianna Otieno, told the commissioners that the facility attended to 214 patients with bullet wounds sustained during the violence. Most of the victims were shot in the chest, with the bullet entering through the back, Dr Otieno said.

The commissioners took the bullets recovered from the victims for ballistic analysis.

At the mortuary, some of the commissioners were shocked by the figures given by the medic, calling the situation horrendous. The mortuary took in 54 bodies, all victims of shooting.

Kisumu was the epicentre of the violent skirmishes that rocked the country over the disputed election results.

Mr Kiai appealed for calm and called on PNU and ODM leaders to visit the violence-torn areas to witness the damage and desperation caused by the standoff.

“I would urge the PNU team to visit Kisumu and the ODM to do likewise in parts of the Rift Valley,” he said.

 

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