Kenyan security forces have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people in the past two years during abusive counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and in northeastern Kenya. The military was actively involved in raiding homes and compounds to arrest people who were allegedly suspected of links with the armed Islamist group, Al-Shabab. But months, and in some cases over a year, later, suspects have not been charged with any crimes and families cannot locate them. In each case, although families reported the disappearance to the police and sought help from various authorities, the authorities failed to inform them of the detainees’ whereabouts or to properly investigate allegations of abuse.

Concern for the well-being of the 34 people is compounded by at least 11 cases in the past two years in which dead bodies of people previously arrested by state agents have been found, in some instances far from the location of their arrest. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, police have not meaningfully investigated these deaths. In one instance, a body was exhumed in Mandera in response to public demands, but the government has not conducted an inquest or any meaningful investigations as required by Kenyan law. 

Government action to address abuses in counterterrorism operations is long overdue. The government should provide basic information regarding the identities, fate, and whereabouts of people arrested in these operations, and ensure basic due process rights for anyone who is arrested or in custody. The Kenyan police and military should urgently investigate allegations of disappearances, deaths and torture in the northeast, and bring those responsible to justice. The president should establish a special commission of inquiry to investigate and establish the extent of the abuses in Kenya’s counterterrorism operations.