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Kenya 'must stay firm on police reforms'

30 July 2013, 12:56

Nairobi - Kenya's lawmakers must reject amendments to a police reform package drawn up after the post-election violence in 2007, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, ahead of a parliamentary debate on the proposed changes.

"Attempts by the Kenyan government to water-down key reforms to regulate the country's police force will allow human rights violations to continue and officers to act with impunity," the group said in a statement.

The reform package was introduced to ensure that the rights violations committed by the police during the 2007-2008 post-election violence would not happen again.

The package transfers some powers that were previously the preserve of Kenya's police chief to an independent and largely civilian oversight body, the National Police Service Commission (NPSC).

The NPSC is supposed to be responsible for recruitment and discipline of police officers.

Amendments proposed by the new police chief David Kimaiyo and endorsed by the interior ministry would however either put those duties back in the hands of the police chief, or would require the NPSC at least to consult with the police chief and the interior ministry before taking any decisions.

"The amendments proposed... would severely weaken the reforms and eliminate many of the safeguards created to discipline and regulate the police force," Amnesty added.

In the aftermath of the 2007 election, which was marred by allegations of fraud, approximately 1 300 people lost their lives and 600 000 were displaced.

The police responded to increasing civil unrest and violence with excessive force that resulted in the deaths and injury of hundreds of protesters.

"These reforms are vital for Kenya, and it would be disastrous if they get diluted at the eleventh hour," said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Africa.

"The police have been acting as if they are above the law for years. The government must honour the commitments it made in the wake of the post-election violence and carry through these essential reforms."

Laws passed in 2011 provided for comprehensive police reform and a structural overhaul designed to address shortcomings that permit and perpetuate impunity for police abuses.



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