Arguments on whether guidelines on the conduct of police during a curfew should be published in local dailies dominated the hearing of the case challenging their brutality during the first day of the enforcement of the dusk to dawn restriction.
While appearing before High Court Judge Weldon Korir on Thursday, parties in the case filed by the Law Society of Kenya gave their reasons on whether or not there is need to have the said guidelines published during the hearing of the case via Zoom.
The LSK and the interested parties like Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and Kituo cha Sheria claimed it was necessary as it touches on public interest.
The Inspector General of the Police, the National Police Service, the Interior and health Cabinet Secretaries and the Attorney General, however, said publishing of the curfew operation directive would jeopardise the lives of police officers while on duty.
“Let’s have the matter heard, there must be an operation order stating the specific instructions to their officers from their commander, locations to operate, the names and service numbers,” court was told.
Justice Korir demanded to know whether publishing of names of police officers would be practicable and would not be a threat to their lives.
However, the court heard that it was necessary for the public to be informed on what the police operation role is and what each of them is required to do during curfew hours.
Court was also told that specifying the role of the police while implementing the curfew would enable full compliance of the order barring them from acting brutally against the public.
Court further heard that the specifications would help IPOA determine whether there is a breach on the part of the police as well ensure there is accountability.
But State lawyer Emmanuel Bitta argued that the guidelines are already contained in the standing orders of the police as well as the National Police Service Act which are already available to every officer and on various online platforms.
He said all police officers have been provided with service standing orders that provide for the general control, administration, good order, direction and information of the Service as per the law.
Since LSK had demanded that an order be issued compelling the IG to publish guidelines for police officers operations during curfew hours, he alleged that the same is contained in the said standing orders which are 1,181 pages hence bulky to be published in local dailies.
“There will be a security implication by publishing such information, there is already existing mechanism in law to seek information on violations such as the one for Access to Information which is a clear legislative framework, this is a blanket request and would go against the role of the police,” said Mr Bitta.
He claimed that the standing orders are usually made available to each officer upon being enlisted and they entail rules on arrest, conditions to use of force, firearms, prevention of escape as well as detention.
He explained that the standing order stipulate that a police officer should always attempt to use non-violent means first and force only when that is ineffective.
He alleged that a police officer who uses force is required to immediately report to his or her superior to explain the circumstances that necessitated such actions and that failure to do so qualifies one to face disciplinary action.
The curfew was imposed by the state to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. The case will come up on April 9 for a further hearing.