, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 29 – Kenyan security forces have been accused of torturing some 1,200 residents in North Eastern province during a disarmament exercise carried out last October.
New York-based Human Rights Watch released a 51-page report on Wednesday highlighting how the military and police tortured civilians when they were dispatched to collect arms in the wrong hands in Mandera.
“Instead of protecting Mandera’s residents, the military and police systematically beat and tortured them,” HRW’s Executive director Kenneth Roth said when he released the report dubbed “Bring the Gun or You’ll die”.
“Some men had their genitals pulled with pliers, tied with wire, or beaten with sticks as a method of torture designed to make them confess and turn over guns,” the report states.
And to force compliance, the report said: “Detainees were made to lie on the ground, and were repeatedly beaten over the course of several hours or an entire day and questioned on the whereabouts of firearms.”
The “Mandera triangle” where the beatings occurred is sandwiched between the borders of Ethiopia and Somalia.
It has been unstable since colonial times and its residents – mainly ethnic Somalis – have frequently been the victims of abuses at the hands of Kenyan security forces, especially during almost three decades of emergency rule imposed on the region.
While the men of each community were being beaten and tortured, members of the security forces went house to house looking for guns, demanding that the women and children at the homes turn over the weapons of their husbands and fathers, the report states.
Mr Roth said HRW was in possession of evidence demonstrating how the civilians were tortured.
He said the same evidence had been documented by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and local television networks which documented it.
“We have all the evidence, the HRW has interviewed many victims of this torture,” he said.
Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe denied police had been involved in torturing civilians in Mandera.
“That can not be true, our officers were professional through out the operation. They did not torture the people there,” he said.
Military Spokesman Bogita Ongeri equally denied the torture allegations and insisted “our military do not engage in torture.”
When the torture issues came up for the first time in October, Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti pledged to launch an investigation but little has been heard from his office since then.
This is not the first time Kenyan security forces are being accused of torturing civilians.
A UN report released in the country earlier this year implicated the military for human rights abuses in Mt Elgon and even recommended that the Kenyan army be barred from participating in peacekeeping missions until a thorough probe is carried out.
The report by the UN’s Special Rapporteur Prof Philip Alston was tabled at the UN Human Rights Council.