Shot by the Police - Police Violence in Kenya

UZH research group analyses human rights violations by security agencies in Kenya. The results are part of the Capstone Course "Analyzing human rights violations in Kenya" and are presented graphically on the website

In Kenya, human rights violations by the police have become an endemic problem. Over the last decade, Kenya’s security agencies have repeatedly been accused of corruption, complicity with criminals, and violating human rights. With the emergence of anti-terror laws in the wake of the rising islamist terrorism, these accusations have become even louder.

In response, human rights organizations have monitored and documented several hundred cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, most of them allegedly disguised as part of anti-terror operations. A research group of five UZH-students of Political Science has systematically coded and analysed several hundred witness statements of human rights violations by the police that happened between the years of 2011 and 2016. The project was part of the University of Zurich’s Democracy, Development, and International Relations Capstone Project of Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 and works in collaboration with Amnesty International.

The 323 human rights violations in the data include arbitrary arrests, extortion, illegal detention, torture, killings and disappearances. In total, 127 enforced disappearances and 112 extrajudicial killings were gathered. Over half of the 323 cases occurred in a context of counter-terrorism. The analysis showed that especially Muslims are disproportionately represented in the data. When it comes to people suspected of terrorism, between 75 and 95 percent of all the suspected terrorists are Muslims or at least carry a Muslim name. Also, cases from regions with a high share of Muslims were overrepresented in the data. These were indications for the potential systematic targeting of certain societal groups by security forces.

An in-depth analysis and several interviews with experts of the Kenyan security sector helped to work out possible explanations for the patterns that were revealed in the analysis. The main explanations focus on the historical distrust between Kenya’s Muslim population and the state, the vigorous counter-terrorism approach and weak accountability structures within the police.
The research group presents the findings and possible solutions to ease the tense situation on a new website.

Chantal Marquart, Gabriela Morillo, Lucien Baumgartner, Natalie Wenger and Patrik Kessler. Contact address: