, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 27 – Civil society groups from the East African region have called for establishment of an oversight police body similar to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).
The groups which assembled in Naivasha on Tuesday while citing a recent report by Human Rights Watch, argued that such a body would ensure victims of torture find justice.
IPOA was formed to provide civilian oversight over the Kenyan Police Service and hold officers accountable to the public in the performance of their duties.
A recent HRW report indicated that anti-terrorism police have carried out a series of killings and “enforced disappearances” following a string of attacks in Kenya.
“Kenyan counter-terrorism forces appear to be killing and disappearing people right under the noses of top government officials, major embassies, and the United Nations,” HRW’s deputy Africa director Leslie Lefkow had said.
“This horrendous conduct does not protect Kenyans from terrorism – it simply undermines the rule of law.”
HRW said it had documented evidence of “at least 10 cases of killings, 10 cases of enforced disappearances, and 11 cases of mistreatment or harassment of terrorism suspects” with strong evidence of a police involvement.
The civil society groups argue that the recent discovery of natural resources in many countries in the region may attract various types of violations where locals maybe either forcefully be evicted, get meagre or delayed compensation.
The groups urged various governments to discuss “how human rights issues can also be monitored at a regional level” even as they focus on economic integration.
According to the lobbyists, the case is not unique in Kenya as other countries in the region also faces similar challenges.
Samuel Herbert Nsubuga, the Chief Executive Officer African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims says police and other non-State actors have been involved in human rights violations.
“Suspects continue to be subjected to torture through extraction of information,” he pointed out.
Independent Medico-Legal Unit Executive Director Peter Kiama also challenged the Kenya Government to develop a law that will specifically deal with cases of torture.
Noting that IPOA was, “doing well in its oversight authority” he said the country also needs a law that will deal with cases of torture.
He explained that delay by the Government to compensate various survivors of torture remains the challenge for those seeking justice.
“The Judiciary has been playing its role but the Executive authority needs to expedite when it comes to compensating those who have been awarded by the court,” he stated.
Kiama also noted that unlike in previous years where known figures were being subjected to torture, in the current cases, “the poor and marginalised” are now on the receiving end.
“We are their only voice; we should speak out against these cases even if it’s caused by the City Inspectorate Department to hawkers (informal traders),” he stated.
Rwanda, Tanzania, DRC and Burundi are represented in the three-day Regional Conference for Criminal Justice Actors.