The families of victims and survivors of Kenya’s post-election violence are suing the government for police shootings five years ago, initiating another court case against the police after several earlier attempts failed.
Nineteen individuals and organizations involved in assisting victims of human rights violations filed a petition Wednesday at the High Court, arguing that several government offices failed to take measures to prevent the violence. Among those held responsible for the shootings in the petition are the Office of the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Inspector-General of the National Police Service, and the former Commissioner of Police.
“The overwhelming evidence shows that these killings and shootings were not legally justified, as the police claimed, but rather, in many cases, were targeted killings of civilians,” said Timothy Bryant, one of the advocates representing the petitioners, in a statement.
The case is likely to be heard in the coming months. It comes almost two years after pre-trial judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) declined to allow the then Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Hussein Ali, to be charged for his alleged role in police shootings in Nairobi and Kisumu between January and February 2008.
At the time, in March 2011, the judges concluded that the ICC prosecutor had shown that there were reasonable grounds to believe the police used excessive force in Kisumu and Nairobi. The judges, however, said that the prosecutor failed to link that violence to Ali.
However, in a majority decision, the judges allowed the prosecution to pursue other charges against Ali for his alleged role in ordering police not to intervene in violence in Kenya’s Central Rift region. Those charges were later dropped when the judges concluded that the prosecution failed to show that there were substantial grounds to confirm the charges.
There could still be a long road ahead for the victims in this case. In November last year, a senior Kenyan prosecutor said a review of thousands of post-election files with the police showed that most cases could not make it to court because there was insufficient evidence. In a December 2011 report, Human Rights Watch concluded, after reviewing scores of court cases related to the violence, that most failed to secure convictions because they had been poorly investigated or prosecuted.