Thursday, October 2, 2008

Murder of 500 Kenyan Youths Reported

By Fred Mukinda
Citizen Correspondent, Nairobi
Sept. 25, 2008

Secret police killings of more than 500 youths were sanctioned by the Government, a new report claims.

The murders were carried out by special execution squads and were part of the crackdown on Mungiki. They were authorised by the top "political leadership" and the police command, says the report. But while providing graphic details on the alleged executions by police, the report offers very little evidence that the killings were sanctioned at top levels of government.

The watchdog claims to have recorded evidence from some police officers who claimed they were ordered to take part in the killings but said that part of their report cannot be released until the officers' safety is guaranteed. The officers were said to be seeking guarantees of safety under the Witness Protection Act. They are said to have named senior officers who gave the execution orders.

Besides shooting their victims, the police are said to have strangled, drowned, bludgeoned and mutilated some of their targets. And the squads of ruthless killers formed to carry out the killings are still active, according to the report, by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Names of victims, the dates on which they were killed and places where their bodies were dumped are all detailed.

The watchdog also gives accounts from witnesses including details of how and where the victims were seized, the names of the police officers involved and the registration numbers of the vehicles they used. The rights group also claims police deployed to the special murder squads took advantage of the shoot-to-kill policy to set up an extortion cartel in which families of youths arrested were forced to pay hefty amounts of money to have them freed. Witness accounts show the rogue officers demanded between Sh10, 000 and Sh1 million to free a suspect, otherwise he was killed.

Kwekwe Squad, a crack unit formed last year to hunt Mungiki sect members, is accused of being at the forefront of the killings. Months after the squad was formed, the report says, other teams, including regular and Administration Police officers were involved. But the police on Tuesday officially denied that they had anything to do with the killings. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: "Its impossible for police to engage in those activities. Those are not actions that may hold anybody responsible here at Kenya Police."

The shocking new claims were revealed by KNCHR vice-chairman Hassan Omar and the watchdog's principal human rights officer Victor Kamau. "It's unacceptable to kill citizens in utter disregard of the rule of law. The attorney-general must rule that all these murders and extra-judicial killings are investigated and perpetrators prosecuted," said Mr Omar.

According to the report, the last execution, allegedly by the police, was on July 7 and several other youths are reported to have disappeared as late as last month.

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