The National Police Service has been accused yet again of being behind the killings and disappearances of dozens of people in the coastal region during the fight against terrorism.
A human rights body has documented over 80 cases, among them 22 deaths due to excessive force, 4 deaths in custody and 31 cases of alleged extrajudicial execution.
Haki Africa also documented 24 cases of enforced disappearances and said that there were many other cases that have been reported and could not be documented, as there was no evidence of police involvement.
“Most victims in the list are youths but there are also Sheikhs, Imams and Preachers some of them over 50 years, who have been killed or have disappeared after being perceived to be actual or potential terror suspects,” Haki Africa Director Hussein Khalid said.
He said available evidence on the incidents suggest that the vast majority of likely perpetrators between 2012 and 2016 were police officers from counter-terrorism or other specialized units.
Mr Khalid was speaking during the launch of the report, What Do We Tell The Families?
The report documents all the victims, their names, the circumstances under which they died or disappeared and the narrated accounts of their families.
It says that relevant authorities had failed to investigate the killings and disappearances and there was no official confirmation of the identity of the perpetrators.
In one of the cases, a mechanic who was arrested during a police crackdown at the Masjid Musa Mosque in Mombasa has never been found.
Hemed Salim Ahmed was seen by his family, on TV screens, being roughed up by police officers outside the mosque.
He was in a pair of beige trousers and a white vest, which was held by police officers as they dragged him into a waiting police pickup truck. His hands were cuffed.
Minutes later, he was made to lie down on his stomach inside the vehicle, with two armed police officers on either side of him.
That was on February 2, 2014 and to date, Mr Ahmed's wife and three children have never seen him or heard anything from him. The police say they did not arrest him and he was not booked at any police station in the region.
“I have searched for him at all police stations, gone to hospitals and even mortuaries but I have not found him,” his wife, Saada Juma Suleman, said.
Kenya Muslim Caucus chairman Issa Ahmed Issa said authorities need to uphold human dignity even as they fight terror.
“We call on Kenyan authorities to expedite independent investigations into the killing and disappearances and release findings as soon as possible, putting in mind the pain and agony that the families have undergone.
“We condemn all acts of terrorism in the country carried out by terrorist groups. But we also call on the government to avoid extrajudicial measures in responding to terrorism as that undermines efforts to combat the menace,” he said.
The report launched on Thursday recounts several other cases and says that locals perceived themselves as victims of a form of collective punishment meted out by agencies on behalf of the government.
It, however, asked authorities such as the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) to help in ensuring that human dignity is upheld even as the government fights terrorism.
“We understand that NCTC, through the recently launched counter-violent extremism strategy is implementing a new approach that is human rights-based and looks into community concerns. We support this approach and extend our cooperation,” Mr Khalid said.
Ipoa chairman Macharia Njeru said the authority would investigate every single claim carried in the report that was handed to him, with the aim of handing justice to the victims.
He said the National Police Service should ensure that police officers are held accountable and that investigations into the killings and disappearances are done exhaustively.
“It is ridiculous for police officers to shoot protesters who are holding demonstrations and claim that they were armed with stones. You cannot compare a bullet with a stone. That is murder, they can do better,” Mr Njeru said.