HRW: Kenya Police Abuse Residents in Hunt for Islamists
Kenyan security forces must end the abuse of residents in crackdowns and reprisal raids in the hunt for suspected backers of Somalia's Al-Qaida-linked Shebab militants, Human Rights Watch warned Thursday.
Since Nairobi invaded southern Somalia last October to attack Shebab bases, a string of attacks have rocked the volatile northeastern region, including grenade blasts targeting both the security forces and civilians.
In response, security forces have beaten and shot at civilians, as well as looting and destroying their property, the New York-based rights group said in a report.
"Kenyan police officers are apparently responding to attacks on their forces with abuses against entire villages," said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at HRW.
"Kenyan police need to investigate attacks on their forces carefully, and arrest and prosecute the people responsible instead of attacking everyone in sight."
According to the report, Kenyan security forces have repeatedly accused residents of either harboring Shebab gunmen or participating in attacks, and have carried out abusive operations against them.
HRW says that officers named by villagers who have made formal complaints should be investigated.
"Senior police officials should immediately follow up on the many complaints of police abuse," Lefkow said.
"The victims have shown courage in coming forward and lodging complaints. Now we need to see accountability for these crimes."
In May, the rights group also accused Kenyan security forces of abusing ethnic Somalis in the same region in similar reprisal attacks, accusing them of rape, arbitrary detention of civilians, looting and extortion.