Kenya army, police abusing civilians
Nairobi - Kenyan security forces are abusing civilians and Somali refugees in the north-eastern part of the country that borders Somalia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said it has documented a series of such abuses since October, when Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia to fight Islamist Shabaab insurgents there.
HRW said the most recent incident observed by one of its researchers was the rounding up and beating up on January 11 of a group of residents of Garissa, the capital of North Eastern Province, in a local military camp.
"When military officers can beat civilians in broad daylight without fearing repercussions, it's clear that impunity has become the norm," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW.
"Repeated promises by both the police and the military to stop these abuses and investigate have amounted to nothing."
Kenya's sending of troops into southern Somalia coincided with the launch by suspected sympathisers of the al-Qaeda linked Shabaab of a series of attacks against police, military, and civilian targets in Kenya.
Hand grenades have been thrown into bars and a church, while homemade explosive devices have been set off apparently targeting security forces.
"In response, members of the security forces have been responsible for rape, beatings, looting, and arbitrary arrests of civilians," HRW said.
"The crackdown has largely targeted Somali refugees and Kenyan ethnic Somalis, but residents of other ethnic backgrounds in North Eastern province have also been victimised."
Kenya's North Eastern Province is home to the Dadaab refugee complex - the world's largest refugee camp - which houses some 460 000 Somalis who have fled famine and war in their country over the past two decades.
Kenyan army spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chirchir told HRW that he did not have knowledge of any abuses, but that that the military would investigate the allegations.