Police officer in Kenya accused of killing two teenagers in 2017 has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, in a case that has gained national attention and become emblematic of the issue of extrajudicial killings in the East African country.
The incident, which was captured on video and widely circulated on social media, showed the officer, Ahmed Rashid, in civilian clothes, executing two young people in broad daylight in Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, in front of passers-by, earning him the nickname of “killer cop”.
Following an investigation by the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), Ahmed Rashid was recommended for legal action as the deaths were found to be caused by police action. However, Rashid denied the charges in court, stating that he was a law-abiding police officer who was only carrying out his duty. He was granted bail in the amount of 200,000 Kenyan shillings (about €1,350).
Extrajudicial killings by the Kenyan police have been a longstanding concern raised by both local and international human rights organizations. There have been allegations of hit squads targeting individuals, including lawyers, who were investigating alleged human rights violations by the security services.
According to the NGO Missing Voices, since it began collecting data in 2007, a total of 1,349 people have died at the hands of the security forces, with few resulting in convictions.
In October 2022, police officers were prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” in relation to the 2017 post-election violence, including the killing of a baby. The Kenyan NGO National Human Rights Commission reported that 94 people were killed, 201 were sexually abused, and over 300 were injured, with the violence mainly attributed to the police.
In response to public outcry, Kenyan President William Ruto, who was elected in August, announced on October 16th the dismantling of the Special Services Unit (SSU), a police unit that was created 20 years ago and has been implicated in cases of enforced disappearances and killings. The President also promised a comprehensive overhaul of the police force, in a bid to address the issue of extrajudicial killings and promote accountability within law enforcement.