Monday, 30 June 2008

KENYA: Army Could Miss UN Peace Work over Torture Claims

NAIROBI, June 27, 2008 (CISA) -The Kenyan army could be excluded from future UN peacekeeping operations for alleged human rights violations.The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has received a report from the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) accusing the army of torture and ill-treatment of civilians in the ongoing operation against the rebel Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) in Mount Elgon region to the west of the country.In a letter to KNCHR, Arbour said “anyone suspected of or found to have been involved in torture or other serious human rights violations should be excluded from participation in UN PKO [peacekeeping operations].”She requested more information on senior military, police and officials that are suspected or were found to have been involved in torture or other serious human rights abuses following the March 2008 deployment of the Kenyan Army in Mt Elgon.Local media and human rights groups have repeatedly reported claims of torture by the army in Mt Elgon. However, the military has rejected torturing civilians.Defence spokesman, Bogita Ongeri, said this week that “no professional military would be interested in torturing anybody, while their objective is to win the hearts and minds of the populace in the area of operation under the principle of ‘minimum force to own citizens’ which the military is trained to practice during aid to civil authority operations.”Ongeri said that so far 3,779 suspected SLDF militiamen had been arrested, out of which 1,162 were been brought by the local people themselves to the security forces. A total of 843 had been identified positively as SLDF militiamen and 758 had been arraigned in court.“The call for immediate withdrawal of the military by some human rights organizations and political activists without complete purge of SLDF criminals would mean that the people of Mt Elgon are left to suffer as vengeance against those who have voluntarily brought the criminals to the security forces would be the order of the day,” the army spokesman said.

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