The Human Rights Watch has released a report tittle “Deaths and Disappearances- Abuses in Counterterrorism Operations in Nairobi and in North-Eastern Kenya”, which documents abuses involving law enforcement agencies related to operations aimed at thwarting threats posed by Al-Shabab terrorists between December 2013 and December 2015.
At least 34 Kenyans including two women have forcibly dissapered and eleven others killed between the said period, after being taken to police custodies for questioning according to the report, with Garrissa, Wajir, Mandera, Coastal Kenya and Nairobi being regions witnessing increased dissaperences.
Targets of the counterterrorism operations are oftenly males aged between 20 and 40 years-old while some are either imams or Islamic education teachers and their students.
The report revealed that security officers from various units raided homes and compounds, business premises and schools to arrest individuals and conduct searches, at times, in the middle of the night.
Most of the security officers who carried out the arrests or searches were in most cases, not uniformed and did not have identification cards and failed to identify themselves, making it difficult for families to trace their relatives or seek justice, with KDF, Kenya Police and Kenya Wildlife Service officers put on spot.
“Families have sought in vain for information regarding the whereabouts of those arrested. In some cases, families have filed habeas corpus petitions, seeking a court order to compel the state to provide information. Each time, even where there is a court order, officials have denied any knowledge of the detainees’ whereabouts,” said the report released on Tuesday 19, July 2016.
In some cases, the report says, security officers wore balaclavas or masks during arrests and, in a majority of cases they blindfolded those they detained for long periods, further compounding problems of identifying units or individual officers.
Individuals behind the operations were Kenyan security forces because in few instances, some wore uniforms associated with police or military – while in others, carried identity cards from either police or military or drove vehicles with official government plates while in a few cases documented by Human Rights Watch, arresting officers drove with arrestees into police stations or military camps.
Kenya Human Rights Watch has raised concerns over the matter and called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to direct security forces to comply with international human rights law, end enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture, and direct the security agencies and prosecutors to take all necessary steps to hold those responsible to account.
The Rights Group also wants the president to establish an independent and credible multi-agency commission to investigate and report on the scope of abuses in counterterrorism operations country-wide.
“President Kenyatta should publicly acknowledge the scope and gravity of the numerous allegations and condemn any such abuses by security forces,” said Human Rights Watch.
It also urged Kenya’s international partners to publicly denounce the abuses, call for investigations and accountability, and ensure any support to Kenya’s security forces – including training, logistics, and other material support – does not go to units or commanders implicated in enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings or torture.
“Donors should consistently press for credible investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators, and consider providing forensic support for such investigations.”