NAIROBI – Four rights groups in Kenya are suing the government over alleged killings and human rights violations by members of Kenya’s police force as they enforced a curfew to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The rights groups are seeking legal reforms and monetary compensation on behalf of victims.
The rights groups, Amnesty International Kenya, International Justice Mission Kenya, Haki Africa and the Kituo cha Sheria, say police used the nighttime curfew to violate the rights of victims at a critical time.
Annette Mbogoh, executive director of Kituo cha Sheria, also known as the Legal Advice Center, explained the decision to sue the government.
“Within the pandemic is when government responsibility towards its people should be even higher than when things are just as normal,” she said. “During this time, there was a much higher responsibility of the police to ensure that they protect as opposed to meting [out] violence against the citizenry, so we feel the issues brought in this petition are unique in that respect.”
The petition included demands for long-term legislative reform aimed at addressing cases of alleged police brutality in the country.
“This is not the first time that these incidences have been happening,” she said. “What is different in this particular case is that one, we are not just seeking an administrative decision, but we are seeking a court decision, a declaratory decision from the court that spells out the importance of the police not using excessive force as they execute their mandate. Two, we are asking the court to ensure that there is one particular department or a cabinet secretary who will be assigned with implementing legislation that relates to protection of the citizenry from excessive force.”
The petitioners include five family members of people who were allegedly killed by police during curfew enforcement.
One of them is Hussein Moyo Molte, whose son, 13-year-old Yassin Moyo, was shot on the balcony of his house in Nairobi’s Kiamaiko neighborhood in March.
Duncan Ndiema, the police officer who allegedly killed Yassin, pleaded not guilty to murder charges and was later released on cash bail pending trial.
Yassin’s father says he hopes he will get justice through the trial or possibly through the lawsuit.
“What we are looking for is justice,” he said. “I have not seen an officer come to me and tell me that they are on my side. I am working with those holding my hand. The case may or may not succeed but the most important thing is that we are standing and demanding for justice.”
In June, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a government institution that watches the work of the police in Kenya, said there had been 15 deaths linked to police action during curfew enforcement since March.
Nairobi human rights activist Rahma Wako says the number could be higher.
“We have filed so many cases such as this in the past,” said Wako. “Yassin’s moved fast because of the media attention and involvement from rights bodies. Because of that there is a chance that there might be justice, but we have so many cases where we do not always have the media and others on board. In such, justice is always a challenge.”
In recent months, Kenya’s government has relaxed most of the country’s coronavirus restrictions and shortened curfew hours.