Kenyan security forces are responsible for a growing number of rights abuses _ including beatings, rape and arbitrary detention _ since Kenyan troops moved into Somalia late last year, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The rights group said one of its researchers witnessed security forces on Wednesday rounding up and beating residents in Garissa, a city near the Somali border, in an open field within the enclosure of a 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 Human Rights Watch. "Repeated promises by both the police and the military to stop these abuses and investigate have amounted to nothing."
Kenya's military spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, told the group that he did not have knowledge of any abuses but that the military would investigate the allegations. The national police spokesman did not answer a call seeking comment.
Kenya has a sizable ethnically Somali population, particularly near the border with Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab operates. Kenyan forces moved into Somalia in October in order to fight al-Shabab. Since then, Somali citizens in Kenya have come under increased scrutiny by authorities.
Human Rights Watch said that security forces have been behind rapes, beatings, lootings and arbitrary arrests of civilians, largely targeting Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyan citizens.
The worst abuses, the group said, have taken place at Dadaab, which is home to nearly a half million Somali refugees. After a police officers were targeted and killed by explosive devices in December, police beat refugees and in several cases raped women, Human Rights Watch said.