NAIROBI, May 29 – Kenyan police
tortured and abused more than 1,000 refugees, asylum seekers and
Somali Kenyans in Nairobi in a “10-week rampage” beginning in
late 2012, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on
The abuses were part of a police crackdown that began the
day after an attack on a crowded bus in the Somali-dominated
suburb of Eastleigh, which killed seven people, HRW said. No one
claimed responsibility for the blast.
Kenya has experienced a series of gun and grenade attacks
since it sent its soldiers into Somalia in 2011 to drive out the
Islamic militant group al-Shabaab.
Police raped, assaulted, robbed and arbitrarily detained
Somali and Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers, as well as
ethnically Somali Kenyan citizens, HRW said.
“Every person we interviewed said the police accused them of
being terrorists and then extorted money from them,” Gerry
Simpson, the report’s author, said at a press conference.
Kenyan police did not respond to repeated calls for comment
on the report, which was based on 101 interviews and is HRW’s
fourth in four years documenting Kenyan police abuse of Somali
The government spokesman also was not available to respond
to the report.
The report said the scale of the latest crackdown was
“unprecedented”. Somali women described being gang-raped by
policemen, and people were beaten on the streets, in trucks or
in their homes until they lost consciousness, spat blood or
broke bones, it said.
Refugees said they were detained for days in police cells
without explanation until they paid bribes.
“Personal gain – not national security concerns – was the
main reason police targeted and abused their victims,” the
HRW said the police were emboldened by a December government
directive ordering an estimated 100,000 urban refugees to move
to two camps on its northern
In January, the High Court blocked the planned relocation.
At this point, the abuses ended, HRW said. The court is due to
rule on the legality of the directive in June.
Many refugees have lived in Nairobi for decades where they
can own businesses, attend school or receive medical treatment.
None of these opportunities are readily available in the refugee
camps, which are severely overcrowded and lack basic services.
The Kenyan government has repeatedly said that it would like
the Somali refugees to return home as soon as possible.
HRW called on the Kenyan government to investigate and
discipline those responsible to deter future abuses.
Simpson said that Nairobi refugees are living in fear.
“There is clearly anticipation of further violence if
Kenya’s political leaders decide they want to move people from
the cities or force them back to Somalia,” he said.
(Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by George Obulutsa and Sonya
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters