Policemen attempt to disperse supporters of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition along Likoni road as they are repulsed from accessing city Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya November 17, 2017. 

© REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Human Rights Watch submitted a report to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council last week, highlighting key rights concerns in Kenya. The council is set to review Kenya’s human rights record in 2020 as part of the third Universal Periodic Review cycle, an opportunity for the government to show what improvements it has made.

The review comes at a critical time for Kenya. At its 2015 review, Kenya promised to ensure greater accountability and transparency of its police and security forces, including measures to prevent abuses and investigate and prosecute violations. But authorities have not done enough. In the five years since then, Kenyan police and military have been responsible for the enforced disappearances and killings of people suspected of links to Al-Shabab, and authorities have not investigated or prosecuted anyone involved.

They have also killed protesters with impunity. Human rights groups found that during the 2017 election protests, police and pro-government militia were responsible for more than 100 deaths of opposition supporters in Nairobi and western Kenya.  

In Nairobi, police have widely been implicated in many cases of extrajudicial killings, mostly of young people in informal settlements which police suspect are involved in crime. The killings, contrary to Kenyan law, are rarely reported or investigated.

At the same time, rights activists, including those documenting security forces abuses, continued to face threats, intimidation, and harassment – including arbitrary arrests and malicious prosecutions – despite authorities’ promises in 2015 that they would take measures to prevent and prosecute such violations.

UN member states should urge the government to allow the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions and other UN officials to visit the country and investigate violations; some requests have been pending for up to three years. Kenya’s UPR is a critical moment for UN member states to push the government to finally show it is serious about confronting security force abuses.