A video circulated showing a case of one among many extrajudicial killings incriminating Kenyan police. The clip showed an alleged police officer executing a suspected criminal in Eastleigh. The incident took place in public and in broad daylight. It raised outrage from the media and the public.
The period after the August 8, 2017 elections also saw some extrajudicial killings by the police. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reports that police killed 35 people while quelling protests after IEBC declared Uhuru Kenyatta as president. The Supreme Court later annulled these results.
Extrajudicial killings occur when government authorities commit killings without the sanction of a legal process or judicial proceeding. The extrajudicial killings or extrajudicial executions are unethical on the basis of human rights and they circumvent the rule of law. They violate the due legal process and they do not accord the right to fair hearing to the accused.
Here are some reasons why Kenyans should not celebrate extrajudicial killings.
Extrajudicial killings promote a culture of violence
A result of extrajudicial killings is the promotion of violence. People become used to the idea that killing can solve their problems and bring peace and security. However, this is only a “gospel of death”.
History shows us that the result of violence is violence itself. When police target criminals and it becomes acceptable, then the extrajudicial killings spread to other “undesirables”. The definition of the undesirables is again left to the powers-that-be.
Extrajudicial killings lead to the rise of a police state
Extrajudicial killings negate the due process afforded by warrants of arrest and the right to a trial. Without the due process, it is upon the authorities to decide what is right or wrong, or even worse, who gets to live or die. Can we trust the police completely? Even if we do, can we really entrust them with this absolute power? (Source)
Extrajudicial killing renders officers a law unto themselves thereby turning them into equivalents of criminals. (Source)
The fact is, not all police officers are clean. Therefore, the idea that any police officer can take justice into their own hands should worry just about anyone. Extrajudicial killings provide a way to total anarchy by the police.
Some extrajudicial killings are usually categorized under a vocabulary of ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounters’. The government tries to justify the killings by using the term ‘crossfire’. The government uses the term to refer to gunfight between criminals and the police (Source). We often hear cases of police in Kenya shooting ‘armed’ or ‘hardened’ criminals in a ‘crossfire’.
All these incidents perpetuate the police state and lead to state ‘terrorism’.
Extrajudicial killings lead to the violation of human rights
Extrajudicial killings lead to deaths without a trial or due process. The unfortunate thing is that it may extend to innocent people in the process. A report by Amnesty International ranked Kenya top in Africa regarding cases of police shootings and killing of civilians.
The report indicates that by October 2016, 122 extrajudicial killings were reported in Kenya. However, the figure could be higher because there was no official database of police killings or enforced disappearances.
Many of these killings and enforced disappearances occurred at the Coast. Haki Africa says there were 78 extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in Mombasa County in the first eight months of 2016.
“Security forces carried out enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity,” says the report.
The police were incriminated in most of these human rights violations. They ranged from extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture under the guise of combating terrorism and the insurgent Al-Shabaab terror group. (Source)
Extrajudicial killings undermine the rule of law
When the police entertain extrajudicial killings, they undermine the rule of law. Apart from that, they encourage mob justice. They give the mob the legitimacy to cause and engage in killing outside the legal system. That is why mobs and vigilantes thrive in some parts of the country for ‘self-protection’, but they later mutate to criminal gangs.
These mobs and gangs know they can kill or lynch suspects with impunity. In that case, the police lose the moral high ground and make it far easier for extrajudicial killings through mob justice to thrive. When police decide they do not want to capture and try suspects in a court of law, they send a bad message that the rule of law is useless.
When the police make such a risky decision, they make it easier for the mobs and vigilantes to make the same decision. They send the wrong message that the rule of law is not important to prosecute wrongdoing or resolve any conflict. In addition, they increase the risk of retaliatory attacks by criminals upon themselves.
Extrajudicial killings lead to social breakdown
Extrajudicial killings occur outside the authority of the court, or outside of the usual judicial proceeding. There is nothing as ‘society’ when extrajudicial killings prevail. The rule of law distinguishes a civilized society from an uncivilized one.
In a civilized society, no one is above the law. It applies to the highest official to the most disadvantaged person. The law grants the Judiciary the power to put someone to death. This law is not a preserve of any other arm of government or state organ. However, the law grants the Judiciary this power under very special circumstances and after the Judiciary ensures it exhausts a very lengthy process of law.
The preconditions that the law puts upon the Judiciary are important because the law recognize the principle of “Right to Life”. The right to life is the most fundamental right. It is universal and once taken, one cannot restore it. (Source)
Therefore, the law serves to protect the right to life for everybody. It upholds democracy and ensures that the legal process takes its course.
Extrajudicial killings undermine all this social order. They lead to a large section of the public losing trust in the police and the rule of law. To make matters worse, the poor and the most disadvantaged in the society are the disproportionate victims of these types of killings.