July 5, 2016 (GIN) – Four police officers have been arrested in the torture/murder of a noted Kenyan human rights lawyer and two other men.
The Law Society of Kenya called it “a dark day for the rule of law” and a countrywide boycott of the courts has been called. The respected lawyer disappeared with his client and a taxi driver after filing a charge of police brutality. The officers are being held without bail while an investigation is underway.
Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and their driver disappeared on June 23 after making the court filing. Their bodies were found on June 30, floating in the Oldonyo Sabuk river. CapitalFM, a local media group, said the men had been tied up with ropes and their bodies mutilated.
A government pathologist said their deaths were the result of beatings with a blunt object and strangulation. The incident has outraged the legal community where the rise of police killings has been a matter of concern.
“These extrajudicial killings are a chilling reminder that the hard-won right to seek justice for human rights violations is under renewed attack,” said Muthoni Wanyeki from Amnesty International.
“Police are there to protect Kenyans and not to kill them,” said Yash Pal Ghai, director of the Katiba Institute, a Kenyan legal group promoting social transformation through the constitution.
This week, hundreds of Kenyans including lawyers, human rights activists and taxi drivers held a peaceful protest as lawyers began a week-long walkout that will paralyze court operations around the country.
The Department of Public Prosecutions issued a statement assuring the public and legal fraternity that any rogue elements in the department “do not represent what the National Police stands for.”
But activists replied that extra-judicial killings were creeping back, and the Inspector General of Police should “pack and leave if he cannot assure Kenyans of security.”
Mr. Kimani had been working at the International Justice Mission (IJM), a U.S.-based rights group, when he was killed. An online petition calling for justice for Kimani, his client, and their driver Joseph Muiruri had 24,594 signatures at press time. The petition can be found at www.IJM.org/JusticeinKenya
“In Kenya,” it reads in part, “it is far too easy for a corrupt or incompetent police officer to frame and imprison an innocent person, who must then wait in jail, often for years on end, for a chance to prove his or her innocence. This corrupt system has packed Kenyan prisons full of innocent men and women with no way out and no lawyer to fight for their release – and the police who abuse their power are not held accountable.
“Willie Kimani was working to protect the innocent from such abuse, and he was murdered while courageously pursuing that mission.”