Monday, January 14, 2008

Kenyan police condemned for shoot-to-kill policy

From The Guardian
12.30pm GMT

Matthew Weaver and agencies
Monday January 14, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

Human rights campaigners have urged the Kenyan government to stop an alleged shoot-to-kill policy against political protesters as the country braces itself for more demonstrations.

At least 575 people have died in violence since last month's disputed election, according to the Kenyan Red Cross, and it says this figure is likely to rise as more bodies are discovered.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says dozens of those killed were shot by the police, allegedly deliberately.

There are fears that more violence will be sparked by opposition rallies across the country planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

HRW called on the Kenyan government to issue an urgent order to police to stop using "lethal force against public rallies".

Georgette Gagnon, its acting Africa director, said: "Kenyan security forces have a duty to rein in criminal violence and should protect people, but they shouldn't turn their weapons on peaceful protestors."

HRW says it has received credible reports that dozens of people in Kisumu were shot dead by police while demonstrating against the disputed re-election of the president, Mwai Kibaki.

It quotes an unnamed police source saying: "This 'shoot to kill' police is illegal and it is not right. We have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters out there."

A police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, denied the accusations. "Officers acted strictly within the laws of this country," he said. "In fact, some of the complaints we are receiving are from property owners that police failed to use all the powers under the laws to protect their property."

The opposition leader, Raila Odinga, accuses Kibaki of stealing the election. Despite fears of more violence, he has called for renewed protests to put pressure on Kibaki starting on Wednesday, a day after Kenya's 222-seat parliament opens.

In parliamentary elections held at the same time as the disputed presidential poll, Odinga's party and its allies won 103 seats, while Kibaki and his supporting parties got 78.

Earlier this month, rallies were postponed after protesters were dispersed by police using water cannon, teargas and guns.

In a bid to resolve to the crisis through mediation, the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, is expected arrive tomorrow to encourage compromise.

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