IBAHRI calls for accountability and reform following the death of Kenyan lawyer Willie Kimani

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on the Government of Kenya to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of lawyer Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri as a matter of priority. All three were reportedly tortured and killed by Kenya’s Administration Police (AP). The IBAHRI joins appeals for an independent, impartial and effective criminal investigation to be held without delay.

Mr Kimani had undertaken work with the non-governmental organisation International Justice Mission to provide legal assistance to Mr Mwenda, a young motorcycle taxi driver who was reportedly shot and injured in April 2015 by two plainclothes AP officers and was thereafter a victim of police threats and intimidation. On 23 June 2016, Mr Kimani and his client were leaving court when they were abducted and, along with their taxi driver Mr Muiruri, unlawfully detained and killed, allegedly at the hands of AP officers. Eight days later, on 1 July 2016, the bodies of the three men were recovered from a river in Ol-Donyo Sabuk, bearing the marks of brutal violence.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC commented: ‘Extrajudicial killings are evidence of a serious erosion of the rule of law. We are horrified by what appears to be the targeted torture and killing of Mr Kimani, Mr Mwenda and Mr Muiruri as a result of the legitimate work Mr Kimani was conducting in the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those responsible must be prosecuted according to the gravity of the crimes and we demand that the Government take effective steps to guarantee the non-repetition of torture and extrajudicial killings. Such acts have no place in society.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell added: ‘This case is a stark reminder that the work of lawyers can carry great risk. We remind the Kenyan Government of its duty to guarantee the security of all lawyers as they carry out their professional duties as stipulated in both the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyersand the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa. It is incontestably the responsibility of governments to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.’

In its concluding observations on the second periodic report of Kenya, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern at ‘the persistent allegations of ongoing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and excessive use of force by police officers, especially during “special operations”, as well as by the low rate of investigations and prosecutions of such acts’ (paragraph 9); and ‘the persistent failure by the State party to promptly, impartially and effectively investigate all allegations of acts of torture and ill-treatment by police officers, and to prosecute the alleged perpetrators’ (paragraph 11).

Baroness Kennedy concludes:‘In the context of the observations and subsequent recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture addressed to Kenya in 2013 – to adequately train all law enforcement personnel, especially police officers, on the use of force; and to redouble its efforts to train the police on human rights – the IBAHRI calls on Kenya’s Government to implement these recommendations urgently and with conviction.’

At the time of going to press, four AP officers have been arrested over the killings and have appeared before court.  


Notes to the Editor

  1. The concluding observations on the second periodic report of Kenya were adopted by the UN Committee against Torture at its fiftieth session (6 to 31 May 2013) and are accessible here: tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT/C/KEN/CO/2&Lang=En
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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