KENYA: Impunity encourages the perpetuation of police torture

'The unwillingness or failure of the government to uphold the rule of law signals to Kenyans that police who abuse people's fundamental rights are above the law, 'Amnesty International said in Ending the cycle of impunity a report published today as part of the organisation's wider campaign against torture.

Since the beginning of the year, Amnesty International has received and documented numerous reports of the use of torture and ill-treatment by the Kenyan police, yet 'very few cases of torture are adequately investigated by the government. Those that do reach the courts are not effectively prosecuted and are usually conducted over a lengthy period of time with numerous delays,' the organisation added.

Amnesty International's report on torture and impunity in Kenya focuses on the shortcomings in the process which allow impunity to continue. They include lack of documentary evidence to substantiate allegations of torture such as the Medical Examination Report, known as the P3 form, and often the failure to instigate a post-mortem or inquest if death was due to police torture.

The case of Isaac Mwaniki Gitari, aged 38, is illustrative of the problems that relatives of victims of torture face in trying to obtain justice. After being severely tortured at Eldoret Police Station on the night of 26 March 1999, Isaac Mwaniki Gitari slipped into a coma, and was rushed to hospital where he died on 8 April 1999 without regaining consciousness. A post-mortem attributing his death to 'dislocation of the upper cervical vertebra with compression of the spinal cord complicated by brain oedema and broncho pneumonia,' found that his injuries were consistent with his having been beaten by police officers.

During an inquest in April 2000, a magistrate blamed two policemen for Isaac Gitari's torture and subsequent death. There was also evidence of a cover-up at the police station and that police witnesses had lied in court. The police officers were subsequently arrested and charged with manslaughter. A hearing was scheduled for 27 March then adjourned for 17 May and again until 10 July 2001. Amnesty International is concerned that there is a deliberate intent to delay the case from being heard and, thus, protect the two policemen from prosecution.

'The government has a duty and obligation to uphold both domestic and international legislation in order to protect its citizens from torture,' Amnesty International said. The organisation further recommends that:

*reports of suspected torture be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated;

*any allegations of torture be considered by the presiding magistrate, even in the absence of a complaint by the victim or relatives;

*and any police officers implicated in acts of torture be immediately suspended from duty pending a full inquiry.

Amnesty International reiterates the call made by the UN Human Rights Commission to the UN Secretary General to seek opinions on the appointment of an independent expert on impunity in Kenya.

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