A human rights agency has petitioned the High Court to have the Attorney General advise President Uhuru Kenyatta to establish a judicial commission of inquiry on extrajudicial killings.
They want the team formed to conduct independent and effective investigations into documented cases of killings by police officers.
The suit has been filed by the International Justice Mission alongside widows and mothers of 22 young men shot dead by police in Nairobi.
The lot contends that the Inspector General of Police has not taken adequate steps to prevent further killings of individuals during police or law enforcement operations.
The AG, they say, has unqualified obligation to advise the President on why a commission of inquiry is necessary to investigate and address specific and systemic factors contributing to the high rate of extrajudicial killings in Kenya.
The petition by IJM cites 22 cases where the excessive use of force has been justified by the police, even in cases involving minors.
One special case is that of 17-year-old Joseph Kahara, who was shot dead by police officers at Mlango Kubwa area in Pangani.
Kahara died as a result of multiple gunshot injuries to the chest.
In an affidavit, Kahara’s mother Milka Wanjiku says her son used to help her run her vegetable business at Mathare Area.
“It was his daily routine to go early in the morning to Wakulima Market, popularly known as Marikiti. But on May 27 at 5 am, he left for the market never to be seen again,” she says.
Wanjiku, a mother of eight, says on a fateful day, she received a call from her daughter who informed her that Kahara had been shot by police.
Her son’s body she says was lying on his left body-side and had gunshot wounds on his chest and up to date, her family has not been offered any explanation on the circumstances leading to her son’s death.
“If any investigations were done, my family are unaware of the outcome,” she says.
Another case involves a 23-year-old male who succumbed to multiple gunshot injuries to the head and the chest in 2014.
Brian Ondeko was a second-hand shoe dealer in Kawangwae area, Nairobi county. The family recorded statements to relevant authorities but to date, his family is yet to be informed of the finding or outcomes of the investigations that have been carried out in regard to her son’s death.
The same case applies to Hastings Esabu, 22, who was fatally shot by police based at Kabete police station on January 2010 at Nduara Road, Waithaka in Dagoretti.
The agency and families of the deceased say from the cases presented in court, it is clear that the Kenyan police force, has miserably failed to observe the rights of the victims’ families to know the truth.
“By failing to inform their family members of the existence of the inquest proceedings in regard to their deceased kin, and requiring their participation in the proceedings, the IG has violated their right to access to justice and information and truth,” read part of the court documents.
The applicants are seeking an order directing the IG to initiate prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into the circumstances under which they were killed.
They say that despite that some form of the probe in other cases had been initiated, the families never get to hear from the police.
IJM says the victims’ families have the right to know the facts being investigated and that those responsible will be prosecuted and punished as appropriate.
“By withholding such vital information as to the existence of any investigation, the state has violated their right to information.”
The rights group says it decided to document the killings following the death of one of their own – Willie Kimani, who was killed alongside his client – Josephat Mwenda and driver Joseph Muiruri in June 2016.
Last year, the organisation launched a campaign dubbed ‘Machozi ya Jana’. The campaign was a call for a robust, end to end accountability structure for the unlawful use of force by law enforcement agencies.
The campaign held eight community dialogues in the urban Nairobi slums of Kibera, Korogocho, Kamukunji, Dandora, Mukuru, Kwangware, Mathare and Kayole.
Families shared accounts of extrajudicial killings and their experience of police excesses which they referred to as ‘ghetto policing’.
Sixty-eight narrated their encounters with police officers that span incidences of police harassment, profiling, brutality, disappearance and killings.