On Saturday, Kenyan social media exploded after a video circulated, apparently showing police fatally shooting an alleged gang member. The graphic video shows one young man lying in a pool of blood as uniformed police officers push back the crowd, and at the same time an armed man shoots another unarmed man at point blank range. The video, filmed in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, is a stark reminder of the need for the forces of law enforcement to be accountable.

A view of a mosque in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi October 5, 2013.

© 2013 Reuters

This incident may be another of the many cases of extrajudicial killings, especially in low income neighborhoods, that Kenyan human rights organizations have decried in recent months.

The response to the video from the Kenyan authorities has been less than reassuring. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian police oversight agency, issued a statement saying it was investigating.

But Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper, reported on Saturday that Nairobi Police Commander, Japheth Koome, defended officers in the shooting. He said: “The same gangsters shot dead an officer yesterday. Tell all gangsters out there that when they kill an officer I am ruthless and they will get it from me.” This is worrying because, as the most senior police officer in Nairobi, Koome will be key to accountability efforts and should be underscoring the importance of investigations and due process.

On Sunday the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Joseph Boinet, stepped in and ordered investigations into the killings. Past investigations directives from the IGP into similar killings by members of the security agencies have rarely led to prosecutions.

Unconfirmed reports that one of those involved in the Eastleigh killings may have been arrested on Sunday are a step in the right direction, but such actions are probably thanks to the social media video. Should it be the case that a police officer believed he could execute a suspect while hundreds of people stood by watching, in the middle of the day, this would be a terrifying indication of the sense of impunity that reigns far too often in Kenya.

Kenyan authorities should ensure that security officers respect the rights of accused persons and uphold international standards on use of force.