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Anti-terror unit blamed for human rights violations

18 August 2014, 10:27

Nairobi - Human Rights Watch (HRW) has blamed the counter-terrorism forces for killings and disappearances of locals, among other violations.

The group termed the trend as a “horrendous conduct that undermines the law.”

In the report released today, HRW Africa Deputy Director, Leslie Lefkow, said that there was strong evidence that Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) had carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

He added HRW also found evidence of arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of terrorism suspects in detention.

“Kenyan counter-terrorism forces appear to be killing and disappearing people right under the noses of top government officials, major embassies, and the United Nations,” said Lefkow.

“This horrendous conduct does not protect Kenyans from terrorism – it simply undermines the rule of law.”

In a research conducted in Kenya between November 2013 and June 2014, HRW said it documented at least 10 cases of killings, 10 cases of enforced disappearances, and 11 cases of mistreatment or harassment of terrorism suspects in which there was strong evidence of the counter-terrorism unit’s involvement, mainly in Nairobi since 2011.

Based on 22 interviews with family members, victims, witnesses, journalists, lawyers, imams, police officers, and terrorism suspects in Nairobi’s Majengo neighborhood, the HRW says that researchers found that suspects were shot dead in public places, abducted from vehicles and courtrooms, beaten badly during arrest, detained in isolated blocks, and denied contact with their families or access to lawyers.

“In some cases, members of the anti-riot forces known as the General Service Unit (GSU), military intelligence, and National Intelligence Service (NIS) were also implicated in abuses by the counter-terrorism unit,” read the report.

HRW has also called on donors to cut funding for projects in Kenya in order to compel the government to take responsibility of the disappearances.

“The ATPU has been conducting abusive operations for years, sometimes very openly, yet the Kenyan authorities have done nothing to investigate, much less stop these crimes,” Lefkow said.

“Donors need to carry out their own investigations of these abuses and suspend their assistance to abusive forces, or risk being complicit in Kenya’s culture of impunity.”

- CAJ News

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