No mercy for rights abusers

As ordinary soldiers and police are arrested for crimes committed 30 years ago, it is becoming clear that there will be no mercy for abusers of human rights. This has clear implications for Kenya’s security forces who are blamed for the disappearances of thousands of people since 2006.

Former police driver, Bernard Kiriinya, seen here in this video grab from a testimony he made to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Former police driver, Bernard Kiriinya, seen here in this video grab from a testimony he made to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

According to the BBC, a judge in Chile has issued arrest warrants for 129 people for allegedly helping to purge critics of former ruler General Augusto Pinochet. They are accused of taking part in killings and disappearances of dozens of leftists and opposition activists mostly in the 1970s.

The suspects – the largest group so far to face arrest warrants – all worked for the secret police agency, Dina. Many of those named in the arrest warrants are former low-ranking officers who were previously excluded from prosecution for Gen Pinochet’s human rights abuses.

Thousands of activists were killed or disappeared during the 1973-1990 rule of Gen Pinochet, who died in 2006 while awaiting trial.

The arrest warrants cited various Dina operations to track down Pinochet’s opponents, such as Operation Condor – a long-running campaign launched in the mid-1970s to hunt down and kill left-wingers. Condor was a continent-wide operation, also backed by the rulers of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

These are good news for human rights activists in Kenya, who have for long condemned Kenya Police and security forces tactics of abducting people, torturing, then making them ‘disappear.’ It just proves that, someday, the perpetrators of human rights abuses will have to account for their deeds.

There is ample evidence linking the Kenyan government to human rights abuses. United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston released a report early this year accusing the police of human rights violations, including killing people without following due process. The Kenyan National Human Rights Commission,  itself a State body, has implicated police officers and their commanders in heinous crimes against humanity.

By far the worst evidence comes from a former police officer who confessed to participating in what can only be described as an orgy of butchering human beings.

Bernard Kiriinya, a former driver in a police death squad, told the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights that police officers abducted people from homes, roadsides and restaurants. The victims were taken to isolated locations where they were shot dead and the bodies chopped into pieces.

The bodies of the victims were deliberately disfigured with rungus and pangas to conceal their identity. This explains why hundreds of people are listed as missing even though their bodies may be lying in mortuaries across the country.

To what extent was the police command involved? Kiriinya said that Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali and senior commanders were fully briefed on the activities of police death squads. Officers who were involved in killings regularly received cash payments ranging from Kshs 2,000 (US$25) to Kshs15,000 ($187) for each successful “assignment.”

Police officers outside of the death squads were not spared either. At one time, a Constable hiked a lift in a police Land Rover that was ferrying four Mungiki suspects to Murang’a. On arrival, the four suspects were ordered to get out and lie on their bellies where afterwards they were shot. The innocent constable was also killed in order to conceal the executions.

Unfortunately, Bernard Kiriinya is no longer available to produce further evidence. He was shot and killed in Nairobi soon after his testimony. The gunmen have never been caught. However, the tapes he left behind prove that truth will always defeat evil. Read more of his testimony by clicking here.

The events in Chile, coupled with an increasingly assertive International Criminal Court, means that violations of human rights can never be forgotten. It may take ten years, perhaps twenty years, or maybe even thirty years, but justice will sooner or later catch up with the guilty parties.