Police should stop Human Rights violations during elections

As the country gears up for the next general elections, slated for 9th August 2022, at the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, we remain cognizant of the fact that voting in Kenya tags along high expectations for the competing candidates and their supporters.

While everyone on the ballot normally expects a win, most candidates are not adequately ready for a loss and consequently, they will whip their supporters to protest the outcome. As a result, police will come in to manage the situation and sadly in most cases as we have seen the past, professionalism is hardly exhibited in handling the dissenting voices.

Looking back to the previous elections, a Humans Rights Watch report noted that the presidential election on August 8, 2017 was marred by serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings and beatings by police during protests and house-to-house operations in western Kenya. At least 12 people were killed and over 100 badly injured.

In whatever outcome in an election, the winners have a right to celebrate while the losers too have an equal right to protest the outcome whenever they feel cheated out of their victory or have legitimate concerns about electoral malpractices.

Everyone has a right to protest peacefully and therefore the government and its agents, the police, should see to it that humans’ rights are not violated in the pretext of managing dissenting voices. We have seen peacefully marches violently dispersed by the police with batons, tear gas and bullets used against citizens who were peacefully exercising their democratic rights.

On 12th August 2017, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) reported that the police had killed at least 24 people nationwide. Most of those injured and killed were protesting the outcome of that year’s election in which the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared the Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner.

In this years’ election, IMLU Election’s Hub reminds the authorities that international law and Kenya’s constitutions allows people the right to freely express themselves and also prohibits the police against excessive use of force, torture and extrajudicial killings.

The United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) Office stipulates ‘Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. It notes that “Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.”

Additionally, OHCHR notes that where lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall; “a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life; c) Ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment; d) Ensure that relatives or close friends of the injured or affected person are notified at the earliest possible moment.

At IMLU Election’s Hub, we have placed monitors on various locations as our eyes and ears on the ground. They will be documenting police activities in relations to their conducts during this election period as well as taking note of human right abuses.