NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s director of prosecutions on Wednesday ordered public inquests into the alleged killings of a girl and a baby in election-related violence.
Police in the East African nation frequently face accusations of brutality and extrajudicial killings from civilians and rights groups, but officers are rarely charged and almost never convicted.
Human rights groups say at least 66 people have died in bloodshed associated with the August election, which was later voided by the Supreme Court, and in unrest surrounding the re-run of the presidential vote last month.
Stephanie Moraa, an 8-year-old girl in the Nairobi slum of Mathare, died after being hit by a stray bullet as police fired to disperse protesters on Aug. 12, the day after national election results were announced. And the parents of 6-month-old Samantha Pendo said she was teargassed and clubbed by police who invaded their home in Kisumu hunting for protesters.
In the case of baby Pendo, the state-funded but civilian-run Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) had not been able to pinpoint the responsible police officer, making it hard to start prosecution, said Keriako Tobiko, the chief prosecutor.
Under Kenya’s criminal code, public inquests are a way for the state to solve murders where cause is difficult to determine. A magistrate investigates and is empowered to summon anyone with possible information to testify.
Tobiko called on the national police service to start disciplinary proceedings over negligence against four police commanders who were in charge of the operations in Kisumu.
He said Pendo’s parents should claim compensation from the police through the courts. He also urged the police service to compensate Moraa’s family for the “unlawful use of force” by the police, failing which the family should sue the police.
The IPOA was set up in 2011 after the killings of around 1,200 people in violence following the disputed 2007 election. It has received more than 9,000 complaints of police brutality and corruption since then.
Last year, IPOA secured its first conviction - of two police officers sentenced for the death of a 14-year-old girl shot dead during a house raid in 2014.
A survey last year by the non-profit International Police Science Association ranked Kenya’s police force as the 125th worst-performing out of 127 national police forces studied. Only forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria did worse, measured on factors such as “process” and “legitimacy.”
Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by Mark Heinrich