State faulted for defying 24-hour law on suspects

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and Calvin Okoth alias Gaucho in the docks at the Milimani Law Courts on July 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The national police service is in the spotlight for arbitrary arrests of a number of politicians as well as failure to adhere to set rules on producing suspects before courts within a 24-hour period.

In the last one week, more than 350 people, including opposition politicians and close associates of opposition leader Raila Odinga, have been arrested as anti-government protests entered their third wave.

The politicians and top Raila associates include Babu Owino (Embakasi East MP), Ken Chonga (Kilifi South MP), Teddy Mwambire (Speaker, Kilifi), Maurice Ogeta (Mr Odinga’s bodyguard), Dennis Onyango (Mr Odinga’s spokesperson).

In Nairobi County, police arrested MCAs Wilfred Odalo (Mabatini), Redson Onyango (Ngei), Majority Leader Peter Imwatok (Makongeni), Peter Owera (Huruma), and Alvin Palapala (Kitisuru).

Other members of staff of the county assembly who were arrested include Eric Otieno (fiscal analyst at Nairobi County), Anthony Otsyula (Nairobi County budget office) and Victor Obel, Victor Katana (Mr Chonga’s aide) and Patrick Chiro (policy analyst at the office of Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo).

DCI officers dramatically escort Babu Owino to Milimani court for bail hearing

Amnesty International says a total of 30 cases of police killings of protesters had been reported since the demonstrations started in March this year. Its executive director Houghton Irungu says the victims died as a result of the use of lethal force and tear gas suffocation.

 In court, the police were also accused of breaking the law by holding the arrested for more than 24 hours as well as allegations of torture on some of the suspects who were arraigned in court.

Lawyer Danstan Omari had filed a separate petition at the High Court after the arrest of the politicians, arguing that the government had failed to arraign them before court within the 24-hour window, thus violating their rights.

In the case of Babu Owino, defence lawyers protested over what they said was a case of police having allowed 30 goons to enter a cell at Kileleshwa Police Station where they seriously assaulted Mr Owino’s five co-accused.

Following the allegation, Milimani Chief Magistrate Lucas Onyina directed defence lawyers to file a formal application against the officer commanding the Kileleshwa Police Station to establish the serious allegations that the goons wanted to kill the suspects, among them Calvin Okoth Otieno alias Gaucho.

The five accused, the lawyers told the court, were assaulted while in cells by goons who were allowed to enter their cell around 1 a.m.

Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid accused the government of converting the country into a police state.

“Kenya is not a police state. You cannot act selectively by going against what is required by the Constitution. We are being one-sided in dealing with the protests,” Mr Khalid said.

Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) Chairperson Anne Makori said the agency had received complaints of violation of human rights and is set to begin its investigations.

“Ipoa is investigating cases reported to us and those undertaken on our own motion including; reported deaths from gunshots, injuries to civilians and police, assault of journalists and arrests of civilians,” Ms Makori said.