Police brutality against opposition supporters: Kenyans express their outrage as UN warns against torture

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By PATRICK MAYOYO

newsdesk@reporter.co.ke

Kenyans re-eacted with anger over excessive use of force by police officers who shot dead three opposition supporters in Bondo, Siaya County on Friday over the anti-IEBC demonstrations by National Super Alliance (Nasa) supporters.

Lawyer Donald Kipkorir wrote an open letter to Internal Security cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, criticizing him on how he was handling demonstrations called by Nasa to press for irreducible reforms by the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) before the planned October 26, repeat presidential election.

And in the wake of mounting police brutality against opposition demonstrations in Kenya, United Nations experts have warned that arbitrary violence by police can amount to torture.

MP Caleb Amisi after a tear gas canister was lobbed into his vehicle.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has told the UN General Assembly in New York, that arbitrary violence by police can amount to torture, even when it takes place outside prison walls.

“Where such force intentionally and purposefully inflicts pain or suffering on powerless individuals, who are unable to escape or resist, it is always conclusively unlawful and may even amount to torture,” he stated, presenting his latest report to the UN General Assembly.

Mr Kipkorir told Dr Matiang’i  that what the police were doing under his watch was not only deeply regrettable but in total violation of the Constitution.

“The killings today in Bondo of unarmed demonstrators, beating up of a pregnant woman going to her business and throwing tear gas into a kindergarten broke my heart,” he said in a Facebook post.

And Siaya Senator James Orengo, accused Dr Matiang’i  and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet of crimes against humanity.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto were suspects of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a result of the 2007 General Election post-election violence before their cases were terminated.

And on Twitter, Mr Kipkorir said dictators Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Manuel Noriega of Panama and Charles Taylor of Liberia had all and their supporters thought their leaderships were eternal; but all ended in humiliating and degrading defeat.

Mr  Melzer said he wanted to clarify that the prohibition of torture applied to “all and any use of force by law enforcement officials, including outside prison walls”, to help ensure that States prevented torture and ill-treatment in all circumstances.

“Any unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary use of force by law enforcement officials is incompatible with the absolute prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Mr  Melzer said States must ensure that their law enforcement agents are trained, equipped and instructed to avoid any unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary use of force, and to give priority to non-violent means of carrying out their duty.

“If the use of force is unavoidable, State officials must exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate purpose to be achieved,” he added.

The UN Special Rapporteur warned that specific weapons and riot control devices used by police and security forces could themselves be illegal.

Lawyer Miguna Miguna said:

“A weapon or any other means of law enforcement must be considered as inherently cruel, inhuman or degrading, and therefore absolutely prohibited, whenever it is specifically designed, or is of a nature, to employ unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary force, against human beings,” the expert said.

“Overall, I hope my report will clarify that arbitrary police violence is not just bad policy, but amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” he concluded. “Any tolerance, acquiescence or impunity for such abuse amounts to a serious violation of international law.”

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