Kenya: Justice for the killing of Willie Kimani, a human rights defender, and his associates, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri

Nairobi, July 5, 2016

To: Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya

Re: Investigation into and accountability for the abduction and killing of Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri


We, the undersigned, write to express grave concern regarding the recent abduction and killing of human rights defender and lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josphat Mwenda, and driver, Joseph Muiruri. We call for a prompt and effective investigation into and accountability for these acts.

Willie Kimani, his client, Josephat Mwendwa, and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, went missing on Thursday, June 23, following an appearance before Mavoko Law Courts. Kimani, who worked as a lawyer with the International Justice Mission (IJM), was in court with his client, Mwendwa. Mwendwa had been facing legal problems and harassment by authorities since he lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) regarding an April 10, 2015 incident in which he was shot by an Administration Police officer during a traffic stop. The three were reported to have been abducted and detained by the Administration Police. On June 30, 2016, their bodies were discovered in a river in Machakos County and were reported to show signs of having been tortured. Kimani had dedicated his career to defending human rights, protecting the rights of victims of torture, and transforming the criminal justice system. 

We welcome the investigation initiated by the Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet, but we remain concerned that this incident is indicative of an alarming escalation in the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and lawyers in Kenya, as has been documented in the reports of the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

We wish to recall Kenya’s human rights obligations under its Constitution and as a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which include guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association with others. Kenya is also obligated under its Constitution, as well as international and regional human rights treaties to uphold the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and security of person, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, and the right to life. We also recall Kenya’s obligation to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders” and to ensure “that those responsible for violations and abuses against human rights defenders . . . are promptly brought to justice through impartial investigations,” as recognized in Resolution 70/161 of the General Assembly. Finally, Resolution 119 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights reminds States of their obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and “urges States Parties to take all the necessary measures to ensure to all human rights defenders an environment conducive to carrying out their activities without fear of any acts of violence, threats, reprisals, discrimination, pressure and any arbitrary acts by State or non State actors as a result of their human rights activities.”

Therefore, we urge you, and all other relevant Kenyan authorities to take the following actions: 

  • Conduct a prompt and effective investigation into the abduction and killing of Kimani, Mwenda, and Muiruri and prosecute those responsible for these acts;
  • Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological security and integrity of all human rights defenders in Kenya;
  • Refrain from any harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders that prevent or hinder legitimate human rights work;
  • Comply with all the provisions of the Kenyan Constitution, the ICCPR, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, General Assembly Resolution 70/161; Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6, and Resolution 119 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.