Increasing violence plagues Kenya protests

UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson Rupert Colville on Tuesday expressed deep concern at the increasing violence surrounding the weekly protests taking place in Kenya.

Yesterday, at least three people are believed to have been killed – two reportedly shot dead by police in the town of Siaya, in the western part of Kenya, near the border with Uganda, and another person was allegedly killed by the police in Kisumu, some 75 kilometres east of Siaya. Numerous other people, including some members of the security forces, are reported to have been injured in both places. Protests were also broken up in other towns across Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi.

“We urge the authorities to ensure these acts of violence are not repeated, and to respect the right to assemble peacefully. We also call on demonstrators to protest peacefully and not resort to violence themselves, as has sometimes been the case during both last week’s and this week’s protests,” Colville told a press briefing in Geneva.

“We urge both the authorities and the protest organisers to cooperate in ensuring that peaceful protesters are protected from violent elements joining the demonstrations -- and it is vital the authorities do not overreact to the presence of such elements, thereby placing many other innocent protestors at risk of physical harm. Organisers should not be held responsible for the unlawful behaviour of others.

Yesterday’s killings and injuries, coupled with extremely disturbing videos and photographs allegedly showing members of the security forces brutally beating and kicking protesters during the last round of protests on 16 May, raise serious questions about whether Kenya’s security services are abiding by national and international laws and standards governing legal, strictly necessary and proportionate use of force.”

Conditions as to the use of force are provided under Kenya’s National Police Service Act (2011), which states that a police officer must always attempt to use non-violent means first, and that force may only be employed when non-violent means are ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.

In line with international standards, the Act further provides that any force used shall be proportionate to the objective to be achieved, the seriousness of the offence, and the resistance of the person against whom it is used, and only to the extent necessary while adhering to the provisions of the law and the Service Standing Orders.

“We welcome the fact that the Government has said there will be an investigation into the incidents that took place on 16 May, and call for prompt, independent and effective investigations into yesterday’s killings and other violent incidents. Any member of the security services found to have committed excessive use of force should receive appropriate penalties in accordance with the law,” Colville said.

24 May 2016

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