Amnesty: Police release thousands

July 27, 2008 12:00 am


NAIROBI, July 27 – It has now emerged that most of the suspects arrested during the post election violence have been released.

Many of the suspects who were mainly locked up in various police stations in the Rift Valley started arriving home last month.

On Sunday there were reports that a group of others were set free this July.

Although police maintain they have not released any of the suspects, reports from the Rift Valley Province indicate that many of the suspects are now free.

And leaders in the Province have already begun taking stock of those released to establish the number of those who may be in custody.

Chepalungu Member of Parliament (MP) Isaac Ruto told Capital News that he was aware of many suspects who had returned home from custody.

Scores of of them are suspects who were arrested for barricading roads, incitement, arson and participating in illegal assemblies.

"It is true many of the suspects whom we wanted released have already arrived home. They started arriving home last month," Ruto said.

He could not, however, state the exact number of those released so far.

Ruto said MPs and councillors have been commissioned to compile a list of those freed and identify suspects who are still missing.

They include young men who were arrested at the apex of the post election violence that claimed the lives of at least 1,500 people and displaced 350,000 others.

This violence that was reported in various parts of the country was only contained when former United Nations chief Kofi Annan successfully mediated a power sharing deal between President Mwai Kibaki and his then political rival Raila Odinga-now Prime Minister.

In an exclusive interview with Capital News on Sunday, Ruto was categorical that those released were more than the ones in custody.

"Many of them are at home, they have been released under unclear circumstances," he said and added that those set free do not even have documents showing if they had been bonded.

But when we contacted the Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe, he dismissed the reports as ‘political propaganda’.

Contrary to his earlier admission that some suspects were in custody, he chose to change the position.

"Our position remains that we really did not have any young men in our police cells and therefore, we can not be releasing any suspects we do not have," he stated and said the matter was being dealt with by the Justice Philip Waki Commission of Inquiry.

Two months ago, there was a raging debate on whether or not the suspects should be granted amnesty.

Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua had then announced that the government was compiling a list of those in custody.

The list was never made public, neither was the action that was to be taken once the exercise was completed.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) said it supported the release of the suspects ‘because they are petty offenders’.

The Commission’s Vice Chairman Hassan Omar Hassan told Capital News that those who committed capital offences were still behind bars.

"We have not heard of any release of people who committed crimes such as rape or murder," he said.

Hassan said the Attorney General’s office and the Justice Philip Waki Commission were faced with a tough balancing act to ensure that innocent people are not wrongly prosecuted.

"Kenyans need to have a little faith and hope that the (Waki) Commission will do a certain balance in terms of directing the course of investigations and recommending the right machinery to undertake these investigations," he added.

Most witnesses who have testified at the public inquiry said they were opposed to a blanket amnesty.

On Wednesday, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said it was opposed to the government granting amnesty to the suspects of post election violence.

"The reason why we are against amnesty is because it can lead to a culture of impunity," he said in his submission to the public inquiry.

The Chairman of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) Tom Aosa urged the police to expedite post election-related investigations to ensure justice prevails.

"If indeed the police have released some of the suspects, then it means they (police) have interrogated them and established their financiers. Let them now move with speed and arrest the people who supported the violence," he said in an interview with Capital News.


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