Kenyan Military Tortured Civilians During Crackdown

Kenyan army officers tortured more than 4,000 people during a recent crackdown on a rebel group, said a report by a rights group on Monday, which characterised the abuse as a crime against humanity.

A detainee is pushed by a policeman during disturbances in Nairobi in mid April. Kenyan army officers tortured civilians in the west of the country where it is battling a militia fighting for land rights reform (AFP/File)

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) said the army committed systematic abuses as it hunted members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) this year in the Mount Elgon region near the Ugandan border.

Soldiers beat their victims, forced them to crawl naked on their stomachs over barbed wire while officers stepped on them, said the report by the Nairobi-based group.

Some prisoners were also sexually assaulted and humiliated, as soldiers inserted gun barrels into the rectums of some victims, forced them to pull each other's genital organs and suck each other's breasts, it added.

Prisoners were also denied food while detained in makeshift military camps.

"The entire duration of torture lasted between two hours and six hours during the day and in some cases went on for up to five days," the IMLU said.

"Seventy nine percent of alleged (victims) had been tortured continuously more than a day while 21 percent had been tortured continuously between two and three hours," it added.

The report was compiled with independent doctors and lawyers.

One victim identified as P.K.K described the experience.

"All this time they were asking us to produce firearms. We were beaten from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, they used whips and sticks. I was beaten on my legs and buttocks. The officers went for lunch and when they came back they beat us from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. They then left us in the rain," the victim said.

The report said that "the systematic nature of torture and accompanying magnitude targeting a specific commununal group amounts to a crime against humanity."

The authorities have largely blocked media and aid workers from the area in the west of the country where the operations took place, in what the IMLU branded a cover-up campaign.

"The operation discloses a coordinated effort and cover-up by all security agents and state departments as well as complacency on the part of senior state officials including President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga," the report added.

Earlier this month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group said the military killed people, forced others to flee and detained and tortured detainees in the crackdown.

HRW also accused the SLDF militia of killings, mutilations, rapes and the destruction and theft of property in the Mount Elgon area.

Defence Minister Yusuf Haji last week rejected the allegations against the army and blamed locals for torturing suspects before handing them over to the military.

"The allegations of torture are not true, but as we have said, police are ready to carry out investigations," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP.

The SLDF took up arms in 2005 in protest at a government settlement scheme that displaced the small Sabaot tribes from their ancestral land.

The militia's raids have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced tens of thousands of people.

Source: AFP

Other news