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Kenya government sued for police brutality during 2007 post-election violence

The Kenyan government is being sued for police brutality in the violence that followed the country's 2007 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. The suit has been brought against the government by the families of seven victims and eight wounded survivors, along with four human rights groups. According to the suit [Standard report], unlawful orders were given to police, who had not been trained in lawful methods for dealing with the civil unrest that resulted from a dispute in the 2007 general elections. Kenya's police force has long been criticized by advocacy groups for ineffectiveness, corruption, and human rights violations. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] earlier this month entitled "High Stakes: Political Violence and the 2013 Elections in Kenya," in which it details the police shortcomings and rural violence that in 2012 and early 2013 alone have claimed more than 477 lives and displaced approximately 118,000 people. "Many of these incidents have been linked to pre-election maneuvering as local politicians mobilize support," the report stated. "The police and other authorities have repeatedly failed to prevent the violence or hold those responsible to account." The lawsuit comes as Kenya prepares for the March 4 election, which will be the country's first election since the eruption of the 2007 violence. Kenya's High Court announced Friday that it lacks the jurisdiction to determine whether presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto, who both face International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] trials for crimes against humanity, are eligible to run for office next month.

Allegations of fraud [JURIST report] following the 2007 elections led to violence that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and displacement of 500,000 others, and remains a concern in the international community. The ICC initiated a formal investigation into the violence after Kenya failed to conduct [JURIST report] its own investigation in 2009. In July 2012 the ICC set the trial dates [JURIST report] for the post-election violence cases against Kenyatta, Ruto, journalist Joshua Arap Sang and former civil service chief Francis Muthaura. The trial of Ruto and Arap Sang is expected to start [decision, PDF] on April 10, while the trial of Kenyatta and Muthaura is to begin [decision, PDF] on April 11. In June, the ICC expressed its desire to start the two Kenyan trials simultaneously [JURIST report] to avoid any appearance of bias in the March 2013 presidential election. The four men have been accused and charged with involvement in the 2007 post-election violence. Ruto and Sang are facing three counts of murder, forcible transfer and persecution while Kenyatta and Muthaura are facing five counts of orchestrating murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution in the polls' aftermath.

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