Kenyan police 'should be fired over killings'

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The United Nations investigator into extra-judicial killings has said that Kenya's police chief and attorney general should be fired because of hundreds of alleged murders by security forces.

"Kenyan police are a law unto themselves and they kill often and with impunity," Philip Alston, UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, said at the end of a 10-day visit to the east African nation.

The Australian official backed accusations that security forces have killed 500 suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki crime gang, 400 political demonstrators during a post-election crisis last year, and 200 suspected rebels from the remote western region of Mount Elgon. The police and military deny all the allegations.

Mr Alston's report, laced with sarcastic references to the authorities' failure to respond properly to the accusations, was one of the strongest indictments of impunity in Kenya. "There is zero internal accountability – the police who kill are the very same police who investigate police killings," he told a news conference, saying only the rare few caught committing abuses on camera were ever prosecuted.

He accused the police commissioner, Hussein Ali, of "stonewalling" his inquiries and responding to questions such as "how many policemen are there in Kenya?" with the phrase "not immediately available". "Any serious commitment to ending the impunity that currently reigns in relation to the widespread killings by the police should begin with the immediate dismissal of the police commissioner," said Mr Alston. "He and his colleagues appear to be the only people in the entire country who believe this claim," he said of the police denials of extra-judicial killings.

Mr Alston was scathing about the attorney general Amos Wako. "Mr Wako is the embodiment in Kenya of the phenomenon of impunity," he said.

The UN official's report came amid a furore over a videotape and statements from a policeman that he witnessed a police death squad strangling, shooting and hacking to death 58 people in a crackdown on the Mungiki. The policeman was later murdered.

The government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which released video clips and statements by a former police squad driver, Bernard Kiriinya, also urged the police chief to step down. "We have a police force responsible for the death of over 500 youths, and an ex-officer who appears to have been executed by police after talking," said the commission's vice-chairman Hassan Omar Hassan. "Someone has to take responsibility."

Mr Kiriinya – whom the rights group says was gunned down in a Nairobi street several months after giving his testimony – described what he says was the killing of Mungiki suspects. He described police spraying victims with bullets as they laid face down, strangling them with rope, and hacking them to death with machetes. Police spokesmen said the accusations were false, and that Mr Kiriinya had been a bitter and disaffected officer.