Pressure piles on MPs to enact laws criminalising extrajudicial killings

Lawyer Abby Mogoi

Lawyer Abby Mogoi in a demo organised by right’s groups  in Nairobi on November 10, 2021 against extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings continue to be witnessed in various parts of the country.
  • Of serious concern is the lack of accountability for most of these heinous acts

Parliament has been asked to fastrack the enactment of legislation that criminalizes and prescribes penalties for crimes of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) while appearing before the National Assembly Public Petitions committee urged MPs to urgently amend the penal code to address issues surrounding enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings.

The commission through chairperson Roseline Odede told the committee the high trend of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings in the country is a cause of concern that needs to be urgently addressed through legislation.

“Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings continue to be witnessed in various parts of the country. Of serious concern is the lack of accountability for most of these heinous acts. Concerted and urgent measures therefore need to be undertaken including the formulation of a legal framework to prevent the occurrences,” Ms Odede said

The commission said the ratification of the convention on enforced disappearance and recognition of enforced disappearance in the country’s criminal laws are long overdue.

“Several recommendations have over the years been issued to Kenya by regional and international bodies towards this. The commission takes cognizance of the fact that the ratification of the convention forms part of the Kenya Kwanza administration,” Ms Odede said.

The commission wants MPs to amend the penal code to provide a clear definition of enforced disappearance in criminal law. The definition according to the commission should be aligned to the international convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance.

The commission also told the committee that it wants absolute prohibition of the crime of enforced disappearance. It argued that under no exceptional circumstances whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergence should be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.

In addition, the commission told MPs that it should amend Article 24 of the penal code to guarantee the rights of victims of enforced disappearance to obtain reparation and prompt, fair and adequate compensation.

Further, the commission wants parliament to amend the penal code to provide for express protection of particular vulnerable groups including human rights defenders and those who work on extrajudicial, journalists and others who are at risk of gruesome vice.

According to the commission, it has documented over 1800 vases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances which have been attributed to the security forces.

The commission was appearing before the committee to give its views over a petition filed by Kituo Cha Sheria to parliament to enact laws criminalizing forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings that it said have been rampant in the country.

Through Executive Director Annete Mbogo, the organization wants MPs to ensure through legislation that there are punitive penalties for the crime of enforced disappearance.

In the petition, the organization says it has worked closely with victims of the extra judicial killings and forced disappearances since 2007 and documents cases of 1,201 killings and 272 individuals who disappeared without a trace.

Ms Mbogo says in the petition that most of the cases they have handled on forced disappearances happened in the hands of the police and other security agencies.

The petitioner says that in 2021, Kenya reported 43 cases of enforced disappearances of persons who were last seen in police custody or persons believed to be police officers.

In the petition, Mr Mbogo cited the Coast and Northern regions as being hotspots for extrajudicial killings in the disguise of fighting terrorism.

Ms Mbogo also cited the finding of bodies at River Yala last year as one of the main reasons why MPs need to prioritise legislation that criminalizes extra judicial killings.

“The Petitioner concerned that there is no legal remedy to hold suspects accountable says effort to petition the Attorney General to form a commission of inquiry to investigate cases of forceful disappearances has not been fruitful,” reads the petition.