By Andrew Wasike
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Over 20 human rights groups in Kenya on Wednesday lauded the country’s leadership for disbanding a special police squad accused of extrajudicial killings, torture and extortion, but urged the government to take action against individuals involved in "heinous crimes."
Kenyan President William Ruto on Sunday disbanded the Special Service Unit (SSU), which was part of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), in order to address the issue of extrajudicial killings in the East African nation.
“The country was very insecure, the police changed and became killers instead of protectors of ordinary Kenyans, I have ordered the disbandment of a Special Police unit that was killing Kenyans arbitrarily. We will change this country for the better,” Ruto said.
HAKI Africa, a pan-African human rights organization based in Mombasa that has documented extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Muslim clerics and other members of the Muslim community accused of being linked to terrorism, has demanded that the killer police officers be investigated.
“(Simply) disbanding the Special Service Unit only is not enough. Investigations must be done and killer cops brought to book. Justice for victims, their families and Kenyans, in general, must be done,” said HAKI Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid in a statement.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, the Police Reforms Working Group-Kenya (PRWG-K), a consortium of 20 rights groups, said the president's declaration shows that the government was complicit in a policy of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances or was unwilling to stop the police units responsible.
In a joint statement, the groups explained that disbanding the special unit is not enough and that members of the SSU must be investigated and prosecuted for their individual and command roles in extortion, kidnappings, torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances, all of which are serious crimes.
They described the president's decision as a strong first move in expressing the political will that has been lacking in Kenya for decades, calling it a strong foundational step for a new beginning.
According to PRWG-K, 107 people were killed and 10 were picked up by police between Jan. 2022 and Sept. 2022. Last year, 219 people were killed or disappeared by police. Out of the 219, 187 were killed by police, and 32 disappeared while in police custody. In 2020, 158 people were killed and 10 disappeared. A total of 154 people were killed in 2019.