Human Rights

ABA urges Kenya to investigate deaths of lawyer, two others said to have been abducted by police

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ABA President Paulette Brown is urging Kenya to conduct a “full, thorough and impartial” investigation into the deaths of a human-rights lawyer, his client and their taxi driver. The bodies of the three men were found on July 1, a week after their abduction following a court hearing.

Brown cites multiple reports that the three men were abducted by suspected members of the Administration Police. The ABA is “deeply distressed by the recent disappearance and murder of Kenyan attorney Willie Kimani, his client, Josephat Mwenda, and their driver, Joseph Muiruri,” Brown wrote in the July 5 letter. An ABA press release is here.

Kimani and Mwenda were in court for a hearing on Mwenda’s allegations that an Administration Police officer shot him without cause. According to human rights activists, Mwenda had claimed police concocted charges against him to cover up the unlawful shooting, and created new fabricated charges against him when he refused to withdraw a police complaint, the New York Times reports.

A pathologist said in court that Kimani had been tortured before being killed, the BBC reports. His skull and genitals had been crushed. Mwenda died from head, neck and chest injuries, the pathologist said. Muiruri had a rope around his neck.

Kimani was helping Mwenda as an investigator for a Christian group called International Justice Mission. His client filed a complaint with the Independent Police Oversight Authority, a government agency that is partly funded by the United States.

“The ABA cannot overemphasize how the abductions of these individuals and their resultant murders have seriously weakened the rule of law in Kenya,” Brown wrote in the letter. “When citizens of Kenya cannot assert their fundamental rights and lawyers are not secure in their professions, the rule of law, which is fundamental to a just and democratic society, is abrogated.”

Four officers have been arrested, including the officer who shot Mwenda. “The case has exploded like few others in Kenya,” the New York Times says, “provoking marches, protests, the involvement of the FBI and outrage that has turned into violence.”

Kenya’s police are known for corruption and extrajudicial killings, the Times says. A government spokesperson, Eric Kiraithe, told the BBC that there are no police “death squads” and the government would fully investigate.

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