Press Release on the Forced Disappearance and killing of a human rights lawyer and two others


Acting in accordance with its mandate under Articles 45 and 46 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) to which the Republic of Kenya is a party, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through the Commissioner responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Republic of Kenya (Country Rapporteur) – Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa – Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, wishes to express its concern regarding the alleged disappearance and subsequent killing of Willie Kimani – a human rights lawyer, his client and the driver, in the Republic of Kenya. 

According to the information reaching the Commission, Willie Kimani, who worked as an investigator with the International Justice Mission, is believed to have been abducted together with his client Josephat Mwendwa and their driver Joseph Muiruri, by persons believed to be police officers, after attending a court in Mavoko for a case involving an officer of the administration police. Reportedly, they were unlawfully detained at the Syokimau AP Camp for a period of time on 23 June 2016, after which they were moved, and their whereabouts subsequently became unknown. 

On Friday 1 July 2016, the African Commission received reports that the bodies of the three victims were found in a river in Machakos County. While the High Court of Kenya reportedly ordered autopsies to be carried out, preliminary reports indicated that the bodies were found with their hands tied and with indications of beating and strangling.   

The Commission finds the reported forced disappearance and subsequent killings of these three Kenyan citizens under suspicious circumstances, implicating the police, very concerning; more so because these might be owing to their efforts to seek justice against a police officer. Apart from being contrary to the rights guaranteed in the African Charter, the atmosphere of fear and insecurity engendered by such targeting of human rights lawyers and citizens seeking the vindication of their rights through the courts, threatens the respect for and protection of the rights of Kenyan citizens guaranteed in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution and the African Charter. 

We therefore: 

1.     Strongly condemn the forced disappearance and subsequent brutal killing of the victims;

2.     Call on the Government of Kenya to ensure that an independent, thorough and transparent investigation is undertaken into the alleged forced disappearance and subsequent death of the victims as well as the circumstances leading to these tragic incidents and that all those responsible are brought to justice in accordance with the African Charter;

3.     Urge the Government of Kenya to guarantee to the families of the victims full access to justice and adequate remedies for the losses they suffered and to ensure that other human rights defenders in Kenya are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions; and

4.     Further urge that relevant institutional and regulatory reforms are put in place to ensure that the police fully respect and comply with human rights and to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. 

  Done on 5 July 2016, in Banjul, Islamic Republic of the Gambia


Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso

Commissioner Rapporteur for the Republic of Kenya 


 Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa


Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa

Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa