Kenya: excessive police force condemned

Amnesty International today condemned the reckless and excessive use of lethal force by the Kenyan police, as reports emerged of the killings of at least twelve people - including a 13-year-old boy - by police during protests called by the opposition Orange Democratic Movement.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director Erwin van der Borght said:

“We recognise that the Kenyan police are trying to contain what in some cases have been violent protests in Kenya. However, by firing live ammunition into crowds the police have far exceeded what is acceptable use of force. The firing of live ammunition into crowds cannot be justified.

“The government must immediately send clear instructions to the police to stop this excessive use of force, conduct an independent and impartial inquiry into the police killings, and prosecute any police officers who have used excessive force against protesters.

"The Kenyan government must respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly throughout Kenya. It is only through the respect for human rights that the country will be able to resolve the political crisis it is now facing.”

In one incident, captured on video by a local television station, an unarmed protestor in Kisumu was shot at close range by a Kenyan police officer who then kicked him while he lay wounded on the ground. The man reportedly died later from the bullet wound.

In a number of other incidents, protestors and bystanders in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, were reported to have been shot by police who were preventing residents from travelling to the city centre for the mass protest rally called by the opposition. Kibera, inhabited by many of the opposition party’s supporters, has been the site of considerable post-election violence.

Amnesty International is also concerned at reports that journalists covering the protests and the police response have been harassed, and that human rights defenders protesting against the use of excessive force by Kenyan security forces have been arrested.

Background information
Since 30 December over 600 people are reported to have been killed and thousands injured during violence that erupted following the announcement of the disputed election results. Over 250,000 have been internally displaced.

Under the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, police may use force only when strictly necessary and only to the extent required for the performance of their duty. Firearms should not be used except to defend people against the imminent threat of death or serious injury or to prevent a grave threat to life, and only when less extreme means are insufficient. Intentional lethal force should not be used except when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

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