The International Criminal Court should investigate the killings and forced disappearances of more than 1,000 Kenyans as the government has failed to bring the perpetrators to justice, a human rights group said Thursday.
More than 300 Kenyans went missing and 1,074 were killed from 2006 to 2008, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The group said 754 of the dead were killed by the Sabaot Land Defense Force, a militia that raped and mutilated its victims.
But almost two-thirds of those who disappeared were last seen in the custody of government forces, who launched a crackdown on the militia in March 2008, Human Rights Watch said. Nearly 4,000 people were arrested in the operation. In many villages, every male over the age of ten was rounded up, it said.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the report, entitled "Hold Your Heart," was a distraction. "We are not answering questions on it," he said. "Maybe tomorrow."
Among the thousands caught up in the sweep was Patrick Kipteyo Sewui, an assistant chief taken from his home by soldiers in front of his wife Phylis and their six children. She told The Associated Press that when she delivered some papers to the Chepkube military base the day after he was arrested, she saw her husband lying on the ground.
"Three soldiers were standing around him and his clothes were bloody. He had been beaten badly. When I saw him (the soldiers) chased me away. When I went home I was crying," she said.
She never saw her husband again. She also has no government death certificate, which she needs to access her husband's land and bank accounts. Paying school fees for the children has been a struggle.
"He was a good man. He worked hard, he cared for his family," she said, trying not to cry as she spoke about her childhood sweetheart. "When I had our first child, he had a party ... People would come to them with their problems and he would invite them inside the house to take tea."
"I have been crying for so long," she said sadly.
No one has been held responsible for the tortures and killings that occurred in the custody of Kenyan military forces, said Human Rights Watch, and only four people from the militia have been prosecuted for manslaughter.
Many cases collapsed when victims were too afraid to testify because the government did not offer them witness protection, said Job Bwonya, who runs Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, which is not affiliated to the international body.
The International Criminal Court should investigate, activists say, since the Kenyan government has failed to hold serious investigations, prosecute anyone for the military killings, or exhume the mass graves that residents say litter the forest around their home.
"There are human remains all over the mountain," said Human Rights Watch researcher Ben Rawlence, showing a photo of a human jawbone and part of a skull lying in a field.
The report was released shortly after the International Criminal Court began hearings on Kenya's postelection violence to try to pressure authorities to take action three years after the killings, Rawlence said. Complaints have also recently been filed with the U.N. and East African Court of Justice.
The militia was used in the run-up to the bloody 2007 elections to intimidate political opponents and extort money to support local candidates for the Orange Democratic Movement, the rights group said.
The court is currently holding hearings concerning six prominent Kenyans accused of orchestrating violence that killed 1,333 Kenyans following the disputed December election result. But its investigations are limited to violence that occurred after the elections. Including the violence that occurred before, in Mt. Elgon, would nearly double the death toll.
"This was distinctly political violence and it should have been included within the current ICC investigation," Rawlence said.