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UN Official Calls For Sacking Of Ali And Wako
United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings Professor Philip Alston during an international media briefing at the UN headquarters in Gigiri Wednesday. He called for Kenya's Attorney General and Police Commissioner sackings over the killings. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
Nairobi, February 26, 2009 – UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on Wednesday condemned Kenya for allowing police to execute suspects and armed gangs to butcher the innocent.
Prof Alston asked President Mwai Kibaki to sack Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali, during whose watch, he said, special death squads were set up in the force.
He also called for the resignation of Attorney General Amos Wako, whom he scathingly referred to as the “embodiment of the phenomenon of impunity” in Kenya.
“Killings by police in Kenya are systematic, widespread and carefully planned. They are committed at will and with utter impunity on a regular basis by the Kenyan police. The police in Kenya are law unto itself and they kill with impunity,” he said at the UN headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi.
Prof Alston was equally scathing of the Judiciary, which he described as “bankrupt” and an “obstacle to justice” for those whose loved ones were unlawfully killed.
Mt Elgon violence
Prof Alston, a UN Special Rapporteur on unlawful executions, has been in Kenya on a 10-day fact-finding mission. He has been gathering evidence on police death squads, post election violence and the handling of the violence in Mt Elgon.
During the release of his preliminary report, he asked the President to publicly acknowledge that police executions were a serious problem and to have both Mr Wako and Maj Gen Ali removed for failing to stop it.
The Government is under no obligation to act on Prof Alston’s findings, which will be presented to the next session of the UN Human Rights Council. But doing nothing could reflect badly on the government.
Prof Alston said Kenya had a good standing in the world but that it’s reputation would likely be stained by the extent of police executions. The government reacted to the report with some confusion: Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua announced that Kenya rejects it and accused Prof Alston of “almost infringing the sovereignty” of the country.
But Prime Minister Raila Odinga, appearing to speak for the same government, welcomed the report and said it will be acted on “in totality”. “We must act on the report. No one will be spared. I am not willing to compromise on this one,” the PM said, adding that the government would not allow excuses such as the Kenya’s judicial system to justify illegal executions, noting that all suspects must be properly apprehended and taken to court as required by law.
Dr Mutua described Prof Alston as having exceeded his mandate and said his report did not dialogue “and appears to have been made in bad faith.” He said the government found it inconceivable “that someone who has been in the country for less than 10 days can purport to have conducted comprehensive and accurate research on such a serious matter, as to arrive at the recommendations he made.”
“In this preliminary response, the government rejects the findings and recommendations made in a press statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur Prof Philip Alston,” Dr Mutua said.
“Kenya’s standing in the international community is on the line and the only way to redeem its reputations is to take steps, however radical they may be,” he said.
As a first step, Prof Alston suggested, the President has to accept that police were involved in illegal killings. The acknowledgement will give the public an assurance that the government is committed to ending the vice, he said.
“The President of Kenya should publicly acknowledge the widespread problem of extrajudicial executions in Kenya. His silence to date is both conspicuous and problematic. Any serious commitment to ending impunity in relation to the widespread and systematic killings by the police should begin with the immediate dismissal of the Police Commissioner,” he said.
He accused police of forming death squads, such as Kwekwe, to execute people, then fabricate reasons for the killings. He also accused the force of failing to keep track of the killings and of always denying them.
Prof Alston said while Major Gen Ali and senior police officers denied that police were killing people, he had evidence of such executions. “The Police Commissioner in particular, along with various other senior officials, assured me that no such killings take place. But he and his colleagues appear to be the only people in the entire country who believe this claim,” he said.
Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali
He gave the example of Dr James Ng’ang’a Kariuki, the 29-year-old son of former Gatundu North MP Patrick Muiruri. According to police records, Prof Alston said, the victim was a bank robber and a member of the outlawed Mungiki sect.
“The police officer responsible for the shooting filed a report that a bank robber and Mungiki member had been killed, thus invoking the magic formula designed to ensure that no one would question the need to shoot the suspect dead,” he said.
He said he had found out that the orders to execute members of the public were given by senior officers and that the independent police oversight body was toothless and lacking in resources to deal with police executions.
“The records of police killings should be centralized at police headquarters and complete statistics should be made public on a monthly basis, “he recommended.
Prof Alston said Mr Wako should resign on grounds of failing to prosecute police officers suspected of engaging in illegal executions. He accused Mr Wako of inventing excuses to explain his failure to prosecute those involved.
“The resignation of the Attorney General is an essential first step to restoring the integrity of the office and ending its role in promoting impunity in Kenya,” he said.
He also recommended that the powers to prosecute should be transferred from the AG’s Chambers to an independent department of public prosecutions. He described Mr Wako as the “embodiment in Kenya of the phenomenon of impunity”.
“Mr Wako has presided for a great many years over a system that is clearly bankrupt in relation to dealing with police killings and has done nothing to ensure that the system is reformed,” he said.
Prof Alston termed the Judiciary a big obstacle to the search for justice in cases of illegal executions. He said most of the people he interviewed said judges could be bribed to fix judgments and questioned the role of the Judicial Service Commission in streamlining the operations of the courts.
“The existing court system could not conceivably bring justice in relation to post election matters and this is an extraordinary indictment of the bankruptcy of the judicial system,” he said.
He added: “There is need to go back to the radical surgery to reform the judiciary and introduce new institutions such as a Constitutional Court and a Supreme Court.” The UN official asked the Government to establish a local tribunal to try suspects of post election violence.
He criticized MPs for taking sides over the matter and warned that the International Criminal Court of Justice did not need to wait for former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to hand over the secret envelope to start investigating Kenya, which he described as having the most water-tight cases he had ever seen.
“If the ICC cannot move faster in the case of Kenya where there is a lot of documented evidence, then it cannot move anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Prof Alston also criticized the military over its intervention in the Mt Elgon violence and said people were killed and others tortured.
“It’s clear that the military denials of involvement in torture and killings cannot be supported by evidence on the ground. The Mt Elgon incident should be investigated by an independent Commission such as the Waki Commissions and it should look at the abuses between 2005 and 2008,” he said.
Prof Alston said he was surprised that in spite of seeking assurance from the Government over the security of the people he wished to interview, four individuals who gave evidence to him in Bungoma, Western Kenya, were later harassed. He gave their names as Mr Job Bwonya, Mr Eric Wanambisi, Mr Eliud Siyoi and Mr Taiga Wanyanja all from the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch.
Reports by Bernard Namunane, Lucas Barasa and Oliver Mathenge
Source: Daily Nation, Feb 26, 2009