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Criminal Justice System in Kenya Stained by Pervasive Police Killings


July 24, 2022

Criminal Justice System in Kenya Stained by Pervasive Police Killings


kimani willie

Willie Kimani

( - For Kenyans who waited six years and one month for justice, a court finally handed them a decision finding three police officers guilty in the kidnapping of a human rights lawyer, his client and their taxi driver - all of whom disappeared after being locked up at a police station.

The mutilated bodies of Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendi and the driver Joseph Muiruri were found two weeks after their disappearance. They had reportedly been taken to an open field at night and executed, sparking outrage among Kenyans.

Hundreds protested in the streets and a strike was called by Kenyan lawyers demanding an end to the extrajudicial killings by police that some called pervasive.

The case highlighted the many extrajudicial killings and disappearances that have been linked to the Kenyan police.

When he was disappeared, Kimani had been working for the Washington, DC-based International Justice Mission, a global organization that combats trafficking and slavery, violence against women and children and police abuse of power. At the time he was representing Mwenda who had been shot and injured by police.

After the court ruling, Kimani’s wife Hannah spoke of six difficult years waiting for a decision. “I would like to say that us getting justice today offers a source of comfort to our hearts,” she said. “Although it may not bring Willie Kimani back, it may bring comfort to our hearts.”

Kenya's Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) has received and processed 20,979 complaints in the 11 years since it was established, but only 3,437 investigations have been completed. By the end of last year, there had been 17 convictions and 141 cases filed before courts, the Guardian newspaper reported.

When the murder of George Floyd sparked global uprisings against police violence, Kenyans also mounted greater public demands for accountability through grassroots organizing and a series of anti–police-brutality demonstrations. However, these protests have not been met with fewer killings or a significant change in police operations.

In 2020, police killed or disappeared 167 people, according to Missing Voices Kenya, a consortium of human rights groups tracking extrajudicial killings.

“We want to honor every life, but there are so many [killings],” said Wangui Kimari, an urban ethnographer who co-founded a social justice center in Mathare. “They become blurred in your mind because there are so many. Some we don’t even announce because it just happens so fast.”

Kenyans have also turned to cell phone videos to record police violence and many can now be seen on YouTube.

Sentencing of the three officers and a police informer will be announced at a later date.


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