Kenya: Türk welcomes charges of ‘crimes against humanity’ for 2017 post-election violations

Geneva, 28 October, 2022.- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Friday commended an important advance towards accountability for gross human rights violations in Kenya, following the decision to charge senior police officers with murder, rape and torture as crimes against humanity in the context of the 2017 general elections. This marks the first time Kenya is using the International Crimes Act to prosecute crimes against humanity in its domestic courts.

“Today’s groundbreaking decision is a positive step towards justice and accountability for survivors and families of victims, including in the context of electoral violence, and can strengthen prevention of future violations,” said Türk. The High Commissioner noted that the decision builds upon recent advances by Kenyan institutions – supported by the UN Human Rights Office – to strengthen accountability for human rights violations.

During the 2017 electoral period, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights documented 94 deaths, 201 cases of sexual violence and over 300 injuries – the majority of which were attributed to security forces.

This case is the first one in which crimes against humanity charges – including in relation to the killing of six-month-old Samantha Pendo – are brought under Kenyan domestic law using the International Crimes Act. It is also the first criminal prosecution of electoral-related sexual violence and the first case to be charged using the doctrine of superior or command responsibility.

These charges were brought following prosecution-guided investigations by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority, with the participation and assistance of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, civil society organizations, victims and witnesses. The UN Human Rights Office supported this process, as part of its partnership with Government institutions on efforts to advance accountability for gross human rights violations.

High Commissioner Türk underscored his continued commitment to support efforts by the Government of Kenya to advance accountability for gross human rights violations, including addressing extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

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