IJM Kenya Marks First-Ever Conviction in Police Abuse of PowerPolice Abuse of Power
On April 28, 2016, over six years after the initial crime, a police officer was found guilty of manslaughter for violently killing an innocent citizen. IJM Kenya supported the public prosecutor (working with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) to represent the family of the deceased, even though there were a number of setbacks to bring the case to trial, including the first judge disqualifying himself. Through years of perseverance, IJM Kenya celebrates this groundbreaking conviction and hopes it sends a message that those in power will be held accountable in court if they abuse that power.
In February 2010, Peter* was riding in a bus in Nairobi when a police officer boarded the bus and ordered the driver to take them to the police station. This officer then detained Peter* in the station jail. Peter had been in trouble with the law when he was a young man, but his name had been cleared and by 2010 he owned a small business. This officer did not record Peter’s name in the Occurrence Book, so officially it was as if he was never there. His parents heard of his arrest and went to the station the next day, only to be told he had not been there. They feared the worst. They knew police routinely “cleaned up the neighborhood,” causing young people to disappear. They searched and eventually found Peter’s body at the city morgue, riddled with bullets. His body was marked as “identity unknown.” It had been delivered to the morgue by the police early that morning. It was later confirmed that a bullet lodged in Peter’s head belonged to the officer who had brought him to the station.
To further add to the family’s sorrow, police continued to intimidate and harass the family. As they were holding a meeting to raise funds to pay for Peter’s funeral, police arrived and arrested family members for ‘disturbing the peace.’ At this point, the family contacted IJM, familiar with IJM’s work from a community meeting they had attended.
Since that day, Peter’s family has been fighting for justice. They have been intimidated and threatened. They have suffered from a legal system laced with corruption. They have lacked access to power and influence. But with the help of IJM, the family has endured this journey. As they gathered in court on April 28, they heard the court confirm that the police officer used excessive force and should have preserved life, not taken it. IJM Kenya celebrates alongside Peter’s family that justice has come at long last.
The sentencing for this manslaughter conviction will take place on May 18, 2016.
Updated 6/28/16: The perpetrator was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for manslaughter. Having already served nearly five years in custody pending trial, the court directed that the balance of his sentence will now be served as probation in his rural community (which is several hundred kilometers from the victim’s family). This order is in accordance with standard procedure in cases in which the accused has been of good behavior in prison.