A roundup of recent killings from police officers has revealed the ongoing pattern of extrajudicial executions carried out in Kenya. In July, Human Rights Watch urged the Kenyan authorities to expand genuine investigations to every case of extrajudicial killings, after four police officers were charged with the alleged killing of rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and taxi driver, in a murder case that sparked outrage across the country.
The Daily Nation newspaper on Sunday published the country's first database compiling 262 killings since the beginning of 2015.
A third of the victims were unarmed, according to data, but this is likely to be a conservative figure given the conflicting information in many situations where police claimed the victim was armed.
In the month of January alone, 21 people were killed by police officers. In comparison, there were 21 police killings in England and Wales combined over the past 10 years.
The paper's data editor Dorothy Otieno said she was hoping the database would help policymakers tackle police impunity.
The database showed 121 Kenyans were killed by police in the first eight months of 2016, compared to 114 in the same period last year – a 6.1% rise. Cases compiled include the use of live bullets on demonstrators and bystanders, such as the shooting of a four-year-old girl near a demonstration, as well as the shooting of young men in the slums described as criminals by officers.
Drawing a parallel with the United States, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation only last week announced it would start tracking police killings, the Kenyan authorities do not track such alleged police killings and deny impunity is a problem.
Otieno, said: "The police are one of the major institutions in any country. They have the power of life and death. So the media has to play a watchdog role if the government isn't tracking this (police killings)."
Police rarely face punishment
In July, Otsieno Namwaya, a researcher at HRW's Nairobi office who led the eight-month investigation, told IBTimes UK the rights organisation was hoping that these investigations "will actually lead to justice for the real perpetrators, and not be used to whitewash the whole process for the people who commit those crimes.
"What we have seen in the past is that when this kind of thing happens – especially if it goes high up [in the armed forces ranks] – lower-level officers are used as scapegoats and investigations fizzle out," he said, adding that after such condemnations are carried out, "the country moves on instead of addressing the root case of the problem."
While police admitted to most killings, it said they were justified, the data editor said. In other cases, witnesses said police officers were involved.
"There's no policy in the government to kill anyone," police spokesman Charles Owino is quoted as saying. "Remember, there's circumstances in law when officers are justified to use their firearms against people. And in order to protect life of the police officer, life of the citizen and even property and many other underlying circumstances."
In July, a group of United Nations human rights experts expressed deep concern about the ongoing pattern of extrajudicial executions in Kenya and urged the Kenyan authorities to put an end to police violence and ensure accountability for the perpetrators.